All six of New Zealand’s law schools have cut ties with Russell McVeagh in the wake of a series of accusations that paints a culture of sexual harassment as rife within the firm.

AUT, Waikato, Victoria, Canterbury and Otago universities all said they had temporarily banned any Russell McVeagh-related events.

Today, the University of Auckland’s Dean of Law Professor Andrew Stockley told staff and students its relationship with the firm was “on hold” for the rest of the year.

Stockley said that the school would not accept any student being subjected to inappropriate behaviour or sexual harassment.

Staff and students alike were concerned about Russell McVeagh’s response to the recent media coverage and it did not reflect the change in culture he had been assured would occur, he said.

“There is widespread feeling that there should have been a much stronger apology and public recognition of the harm that some women law students have experienced, and that the answers reported in the media have been unduly legalistic and narrow,” he said.

“As an example, there have been comments made to the effect that there were no formal complaints, that privacy prevents the firm saying more, and that in some cases the women consented.”

As a result he penned a strongly-worded letter to the firm advising them of the decision.

Stockley said he would continue to talk to all law firms to make sure all students were treated with “dignity and respect”.

Victoria University of Wellington Vice-Chancellor Professor Grant Guilford said the university would wait for the result of the external review before it decided if it would resume activities with the firm.

It was in the “best interests” of the students to do so, he said.

“Our caution in part relates to the ongoing allegations of prior alcohol-fuelled sexual impropriety between senior staff and students on the firm’s premises but also the firm’s recent description of such events as ‘consensual’,” he said.

“This description suggests the culture that fostered these behaviours may very well remain well ingrained in the firm.”

AUT’s dean of law, Professor Charles Rickett, had previously told the Herald it had ditched a planned presentation from the firm.

“We have done this because of ongoing investigations into improper conduct by employees of the firm and concerns in relation to the working environment and culture of Russell McVeagh.”

Likewise, a University of Otago spokesperson said they had cancelled an upcoming workshop with the firm.

The university had also decided it would fund the student interview competition event that was usually funded by Russell McVeagh, the spokesperson said.

A University of Waikato spokesperson confirmed it would not host Russell McVeagh on campus, nor will it be engaging with the firm for student recruitment, at this stage.

A University of Canterbury spokesperson said the university had told Russell McVeagh yesterday that it would not host the firm on campus until the outcome of its review is known.

“UC’s first duty is to our students.”

Russell McVeagh declined to comment when contacted by the Herald.

Source: NZ Herald

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