Aotearoa Legal Workers’ Union deeply concerned to hear of misconduct at Morrison Kent
20 November 2021
The Aotearoa Legal Workers’ Union (ALWU) is deeply concerned to hear of the allegations regarding bullying behaviour and misconduct at Morrison Kent, revealed by Sasha Borissenko for the Weekend Herald today.
ALWU was born in response to the events at Russell McVeagh first reported on in 2018. Despite the huge media and public response to these events, these new allegations at Morrison Kent follow similar recent revelations at other big firms.
ALWU Co-President Tess Upperton says, “This story and the others that have broken since 2018 show that the legal profession has a long way to go. A band-aid PR campaign or a brand refresh clearly do not fix systemic problems that sadly run deep in the profession.”
“The reports of “astronomical hours” and excessive billing targets up to 7 hours a day are particularly troubling,” Upperton says. “ALWU’s 2020 Employment Information Survey found that 70% of respondents were under pressure to meet targets. This culture creates stress and burnout, as well as exacerbating the power differential between employer and worker. ALWU also reminds Morrison Kent and partner Jamie Nunns that there is another word for forcing staff to resign for failures to meet billing targets: constructive dismissal.”
The firm has also not repaid its COVID-19 wage subsidy despite billing 98% of its target for 2020. Upperton says, “While both support staff and lawyers were fearing for their jobs and seven workers were made redundant, we see Morrison Kent receiving half a million dollars from the government. Then the firm has a very successful financial year and doesn’t repay the subsidy. The numbers just don’t add up”.
In terms of real change, Upperton points to Dame Margaret Bazley’s 2018 report and its recommendations. “There are concrete and real steps firms can take to protect employees and help them to thrive at work. Compulsory training in cultural competency and management, capability and behaviour assessment before promotion, and overtime and TOIL policies are just some examples of ways legal workplaces can improve for all workers”.
“What we are also seeing though is an increasing recognition of lawyers’ own obligations to call out this behaviour. ALWU applauds those who have come forward and made complaints both to the firm and to the Law Society regarding this behaviour.”
Media Release ends