National | Investigation

Hundreds of Law Students protest outside Russell McVeagh

Hundreds of Wellington law students protested the right to workplaces being free of sexual violence outside the offices of Russell McVeagh, following allegations, ranging from sexual harassment to rape, made by five clerks who interned during the law firm’s 2015/2016 Summer programme.

The firm also provides Crown legal work to the Labour-led government, which has suspended all Young Labour events amidst a police investigation following allegations of sexual assault at its Waihi summer camp last month.

Students could be heard marching from their Law School to Midlands Park.

One law student says “we're here to tautoko our fellow students, this can’t happen any longer."

Edwina Smith says, "We need to approach this issue head-on and let people know we're over it and that the culture needs to change in the firms."

Wiliame Gucake says, "This is our career, this is out profession, this is what we spend years of study for and a lot of money paying for so we want to go into safe environments that are open to all ethnicities, to all genders."

They're calling for all law firms to take-on a set of demands including a zero tolerance approach to sexual assault and harassment in the workplace; and for Russell McVeagh to be suspended from all government work until their external review is complete.

Third year law student Rhianna Morar says, "We want to know that we are sending our grads into safe workplaces and we want to make sure that those places are fulfilling their legal obligations, especially when it comes to sexual assault."

Lecturers were there to back the students and support the cause.

Victoria University Senior Law Lecturer Māmari Stephens says, "The key objective of these firms is to make money.  How do you make money?  By employing interns.

"Exploitation is one word for it.  But sexual harassment is only the tip of the iceberg.  This is not just Russell McVeagh's fault, we are all accountable."

Russell McVeagh would not comment until the independent external review into the allegations was complete.