Addressing Sexual Harassment in the Australian Legal Profession

  • (a) What role should the Law Council play as the national peak body in addressing sexual harassment within the Australian legal profession?
    (b) What would you consider to be outside the mandate of the Law Council?
  • (a) Do you agree that more oversight from regulatory bodies and/or professional bodies is needed; or
    (b) Should all responsibility for change and compliance be left to individual workplaces?
  • What is the role for professional bodies as distinct from regulatory bodies?*
    *Professional bodies mean those bodies purporting to represent the views of the legal profession, including national peak bodies, such as the Law Council, and state and territory peak bodies, such as the law societies and bar associations. Regulatory bodies mean those bodies that regulate the profession and have the power to discipline legal practitioners for breaches of professional conduct rules.
  • Which of the following practical measures would you most like to see the Law Council undertake?

    (a) General standards of conduct for the legal profession:
    i. Mandatory ii. Guiding iii. Including around social events and alcohol.

    (b) Best practice guidelines for the legal profession in relation to sexual harassment policies, complaints processes, procedures, and/or training.

    (c) Model sexual harassment policies, which workplaces, law societies and bar associations can adapt.

    (d) Model sexual harassment training, which law societies and bar associations can adopt and provide as continuing professional development training:
    i. General ii. Bystander iii. Management response.

    (e) Education for the legal profession on sexual harassment to ensure lawyers understand their legal obligation and are aware of what to do to prevent or respond to sexual harassment.

    (f) Model clauses, which lawyers and workplaces can adapt and use, and/or accompanying factsheets or educational materials to inform decision-making in relation to when and if it is appropriate to use nondisclosure clauses in settlement agreements.

    (g) Public statement of intent not to use unfair or unethical non-disclosure agreements, which lawyers and workplaces can adopt.

    (h) Voluntary code for law firms, practices and chambers (or directors, partners and barristers) to adopt, and provide reports on number of sexual harassment complaints, number of women in senior positions, etc.

    (i) Mandatory reporting scheme, which requires law firms, practices and chambers (or directors, partners and barristers) to provide de-identified data of sexual harassment complaints.

    (j) Other, please specify.

    (k) None of these are appropriate for the Law Council.

  • (a) Are there any previous recommendations that you do not agree with (see Appendices of Discussion Paper)?
    (b) Are there any previous recommendations suggested as mandatory/compulsory that you think should be guiding/voluntary, or vice versa (see Appendices of Discussion Paper)?
  • (a) What constitutes best practice in relation to sexual harassment policies, complaints processes, procedures, and training?
    (b) Are there certain non-negotiable minimum standards?
    (c) Do you have examples of best practice?
    (d) Do you have examples of practices that have not been successful?
  • (a) If best practice guidelines are important to you, should these be uniform across the country, or should each law society and bar association decide its own best practice guidelines?
    (b) What are the advantages and disadvantages of a nationally consistent approach?
    (c) What role should the Law Council play in the development of any future best practice guidelines?
  • (a) Has your law society or bar association attempted to implement a practical measure and not been successful?
    (b) What was the barrier to implementation?
    (c) What do you consider could be the greatest barriers to implementation?
    (d) How could such barriers be addressed?
  • Are ‘male allies’, ‘male champions of change’ and ‘good behaviour pledges’ useful concepts?
  • (a) Should any policies or practices address the role of witnesses and bystanders to sexual harassment?
    (b) If so, what should be the role or responsibilities of witnesses and bystanders to sexual harassment?
  • What other existing or forthcoming practical measures has your law society or bar association undertaken to address sexual harassment (see Appendices of Discussion Paper)?