JLU: Junior Lawyers' Union

Asserting the rights of junior lawyers, who have much more power than they realise.

Monday, July 31, 2006

Partners who put the "ass" in harassment

Shop Steward can only recall having his bum pinched once - and that was by a gay gent wearing sparkles on Halloween in West Hollywood. While initially unnerved, once the perpetrator identified himself with a smile and a wink, Shop Steward quickly found himself flattered. After all, gay men have taste and style (even if they wear sparkles).

The issue of harassment - sexual, verbal or physical - in the workplace, however, is a serious matter in any industry and lawyers, who should know better, often don't. This is especially true (in both respects) in the case of partners. So used, are partners, to being treated with deity-like deference that many, being overstressed, overworked and overpaid, take out their pent up egotistical stresses on junior lawyers.

Stories abound of articled clerks at whom copies of the Corporations Act 2001 (Cth) were flung, partners whose wandering hands lingered slightly too long on a certain pretty young lawyer's thigh at the firm Christmas party and so on and so forth. The JLU may, at present, be a somewhat mythical union - but it deplores the abuses of power and position that are all too real in the law firm environment.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

More subversive rubbish from the middle-class Shop Steward yearning for working-class credibility.

Get with the program, pinko!

02 August, 2006 21:22  
Blogger Shop Steward said...

Haha! I love it!

Bring on the debate, Genghis!

02 August, 2006 21:55  
Blogger Legal Eagle said...

And your point is, Anonymous??? I would say that the majority of lawyers these days are from a middle class background - it seems to come with the territory. But I think Shop Steward has valid arguments to make.

What do you suggest that we do about the issues of workplace harrassment, reasonable working hours etc? What is "the program"? Do you think we should just ignore these issues and get back to clocking up the billable hours? If you have a real argument to make, then make it. I throw down the gauntlet, Anonymous.

03 August, 2006 16:51  
Anonymous KY said...

I think it's ironic that I don't hear any stories (whether from friends in big and small firms) of partners sexually or physically harassing junior lawyers in Hong Kong compared with London or Melbourne (though verbal abuse, including sexist comments, are known to happen more often than one might like).

My take on why there is this difference between HK and, say, UK and Australia is that:

1. there isn't the same diversity in background to lawyers in HK compared with lawyers in Aust or UK. Even by Aust and UK standards (where lawyers tend to be middle class) a disproportionate number of lawyers in HK come from relatively well-to-do backgrounds. As such these rich or almost-rich kids are less likely to take s**t in relation to this kind of thing. This applies particular to large firms where young lawyers tend to be from posh schools and wear huge diamond rings or expensive watches (or both) even before they did a day's work. Bosses dare not mess with rich kids like that - who knows whether they might be some big businessperson's child (even if these kids got into the big firms on merit)?

2. Similarly, at smaller firms trainee solicitors (ie articled clerks in Victorian terminology) are often hired on the basis of whether he/she is some friend's daughter/son/relative. In such cases bosses probably dare not touch the trainees for wider relationship reasons.

3. The funny thing, however, is that rumours of abuse tend to be heard a lot more from the HK Bar - the reason for that is probably because the bar is still (relatively) independent from a business relationships perspective, and furthermore good barristers are hard find (there are only around 1000 barristers in HK of which less than half are in active practice, and out of those in active practice very few are any good). This means that as a result of the relative lack of competition for work, well-known seniors will still get lots of work even if they try and touch someone they shouldn't be touching.

10 August, 2006 13:47  
Blogger Legal Eagle said...

I think the Bar are pretty bad here too. For example, a nasty old barrister here asked a young female solicitor of my acquaintance whether she would jump naked out of a birthday cake for him. I think my answer would have been "No, but I'll happily punch you in the schnozz."

Your observations about HK law firms are very interesting, however.

10 August, 2006 15:06  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

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17 February, 2007 12:37  

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