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:
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.
ALWU has three types of 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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