ABOUT US

On 14 February 2018, Newsroom broke a story regarding sexual assault

at one of New Zealand's premier law firms.

 

Following that story, there was an outpouring of junior lawyers

sharing their experiences of sexual harassment and exploitation at work. 

A year later, with no sign of any meaningful change in the profession

in response to the issues that surfaced,

ALWU was formed.

Read on to find out more about:

Our aims

What we do for members

Membership structure

Our team

Our aims

ALWU is here to represent workers at legal workplaces in Aotearoa.

 

We aim to:

  • promote inclusivity, kindness and a sense of pride in the legal profession;

  • provide a cohesive public voice for legal workers;

  • stop the unfair treatment of junior lawyers;

  • promote safe and healthy workplaces for legal workers in New Zealand; and

  • advocate for margnialised groups of legal workers, including junior lawyers, women, people in the LGBTQI+ community, tangata whenua, people of colour, and disabled people.

In order to  achieve those goals, ALWU will:

  • advocate for fair treatment and accountability in the profession;

  • collect and publish data to promote transparency about pay and working conditions in legal workplaces;

  • conduct campaigns to reduce the power imbalance and pay gap between employers and workers; and

  • connect legal workers with qualified support, advocacy and representation on workplace issues.

 
 
What we do for members

In addition to advocating for the collective interests of its members generally through the media and with relevant organisations, ALWU also helps members at the individual level. 

We have a dedicated advocacy team, plus a panel of experienced employment lawyers who can represent ALWU members on a pro bono basis.  They can provide members with a wide range of support, including:

  • providing information and answering questions about members' employment;

  • advising members on employment issues they're facing;

  • acting as a support person and attending meetings with members and their employers;

  • attending and offering support at mediation; and

  • if necessary, representing members at the Employment Relations Authority or the Employment Court.

This year, ALWU also intends to begin collective bargaining for its members.

 
Membership structure

ALWU has three types of membership:

  1. Ordinary membership

  2. Student membership

  3. Associate membership

Ordinary membership is open to anybody employed in a legal workplace who supports the purposes of ALWU. ALWU intends to represent the collective interests of people employed as a lawyer in any organisation, in a policy or advocacy role that interfaces with the law, or in a support role for lawyers or other legal workers.

Student membership is open to anybody aged 16 years or older who either:

  • is engaged in at least their second year of; or

  • has completed within the previous two years

full time study in a nationally-accredited education institution or programme where the person has an interest 

Associate membership is open to anybody not otherwise entitled to membership

 
Our team
Bridget Sinclair

Co-President

I am one of the founding members of ALWU and served as Secretary in 2019-2020.

I am a fifth year solicitor in a specialist litigation firm.

I have a particular interest in employment law, which has informed my passion for advocacy for legal workers.  I am especially interested in the role of unions and how collective action can create positive change and inspire individuals to speak up for themselves and others.

Indiana Shewen

Co-President

E rere kau ana te hau o mihi ki a koutou. I te taha o tōku Mama, he uri au o Te Āti Awa me Ngāti Mutunga hoki.

The Aotearoa Legal Worker’s Union is a vehicle through which we can carve out a space in our current legal system where we are empowered to challenge, change and propel our profession and justice system into something that is much better than when we found it. I am absolutely devoted to the kaupapa on which ALWU has built its foundations, and I am passionate about bringing more and more people on board this waka.

Harrison Cunningham

Treasurer

I am one of the founding members of the union, having been involved right from when our union was conceived in a Wellington flat. In addition to my role as Treasurer, I also assist in leading ALWU's advocacy responses, helping individual members negotiate disputes with their employer.

I believe in ALWU because I believe that collective action is the only way that legal workers can reclaim their power and bring some justice back into the profession charged to uphold the law.

Graeme Scobie

Student Representative

I am a second-year LLB/BA student at the University of Otago with a passion for individuals’ rights and particularly those of young lawyers. 

As a member of the LGBTQIA+ community, I have a personal drive for creating awareness of the experiences of said community within the legal profession with a hope to bring about meaningful change. I joined the ALWU because I am passionate about fostering equal treatment within the legal community.

Wendy Kemp

Executive Member

I'm in my fourth year practising law and currently a property solicitor in one of the government departments in Wellington.

I'm looking forward to being a port of call for those in frustrating situations with their employers and helping them find assistance for a way forward. Over time I hope that employers realise legal employees are no longer as vulnerable as they once were, that employees have a strong collective voice backing them and that the base treatment of employees gets lifted across the board to one of respect and value.

Bethany Paterson

Executive Member

I was only recently admitted to the bar and have held the prestigious title of "law clerk" for a number of years while at uni. During those uni years, we protested the sexual violence stories coming out of Russell McVeagh. This was a bit of a wake-up call for law, but there's a lot left to do.

We're now talking about ensuring that legal workers get paid at least minimum wage, aiming for a living wage and building power for support staff who have been consistently overlooked and undervalued. And not to mention raising up diversity and inclusivity and ending bullying and harassment in law.

Helen Munro

Executive Member

Kia ora, I am a barrister located in Auckland. I joined ALWU the same day I heard it existed, and I've been glad every day that I did. I've been privileged to work alongside Harrison Cunningham to address the continuing shame of harassment and bullying in our profession.

There is change coming for everyone, and it's nothing to be fearful of or resist any longer. 

I'd love to hear from anyone who has some stories to tell, needs a little bit of support, or just wants to say hi.

Emily Tyler

Executive Member

I am a third year solicitor in a commercial firm in Auckland.

I am passionate about what ALWU stands for, and believe that everyone is entitled to a fair, safe and transparent workplace. ALWU provides a supportive community, one whose collective voice means that individual workers do not have to act alone. In the face of greater uncertainty and job insecurity as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is more important than ever to make sure that all legal workers know their employee rights and have access to advocacy services.

Diana Youssif

Secretary

After finishing my Law and Arts studies at the University of Canterbury, I moved to Wellington to start as a law clerk at a large firm. I then moved back to Christchurch where I am currently working for a medium-sized firm.

I have an image of the legal profession as a safe space, free from bullying and harassment, where workers are valued, supported and given space to flourish. Once each person is valued, our legal profession would naturally be inclusive of every worker, no matter their level of seniority, their gender, what they look like or where they come from.

Katrina Hope

Executive Member

I'm Canterbury born and Otago raised and completed both my Bachelor and Master of Laws at the University of Canterbury. I'm currently based in Christchurch and work a a solicitor in general practice.

While I am honoured and proud to be a part of the legal profession, I have continued to be appalled by the ongoing issues that many legal workers face, including minimum wage issues, harassment and bullying, and mental health difficulties.

I believe that the legal profession needs to practice what it preaches, and that is why I joined ALWU.

Jaini Patel

Executive Member

I'm a solicitor at a large government department and started my career at a large law firm in Wellington.

I believe that ALWU has a great part to play in the legal profession - whether it's listening to how you're doing right now as a legal worker, doing the hard mahi to devise solutions, making change stick with some good old accountability, or having a profession that we can all be happy about. For me, that's a legal community that is both diverse and inclusive, provides a safe working environment, values mental health and respects all legal workers.

Hannah Yang

Executive Member

I grew up in Mt Roskill, Auckland. I did my BA/LLB(Hons) at the University of Auckland and am currently a judge's clerk based in Wellington.

I initially joined ALWU as a member because, like many, I was appalled yet unsurprised by the news of sexual harassment that broke in 2018. The fact it was unsurprising is itself an indictment on the culture of the legal profession. I want to work in a profession where people are treated fairly, respectfully, and (the most outrageous idea of them all) legally. I'm hoping to do my part to bring about that change, and I hope you can join us.

"I'm incredibly heartened by the great work ALWU is taking on, and the energy and vision of its members.  Positive culture change doesn't just happen by accident.  It takes effort and work and positive support networks.  I totally support this kaupapa."

Zoë Prebble  Lecturer, Te Herenga Waka | Victoria University of Wellington

© 2021 Aotearoa Legal Workers' Union