A look behind the scenes of the legal profession

Jock Anderson's Caseload: Gay-friendly lawyers come up trumps

Simpson Grierson has achieved a certificate called a Rainbow Tick, which recognises the firm for being inclusive of gender and sexual diversity. Photo / Thinkstock
Simpson Grierson has achieved a certificate called a Rainbow Tick, which recognises the firm for being inclusive of gender and sexual diversity. Photo / Thinkstock

"I see, CaseLoad," said Our Man At The Bar, securing himself at the corner leaner, "your chums at Simpson Grierson have become the first in New Zealand to get the thumbs up for welcoming folk of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, takatapui and intersex (LGBTI) persuasions."

"They've worked hard to get a certificate called a Rainbow Tick, which recognises the firm for being inclusive of gender and sexual diversity."

"Chairman Kevin Jaffe tells me it's a significant milestone and the firm's goal is to let staff and clients know they embrace diversity and support their LGBTI staff," said OMATB.

Simpson Grierson human resources director Jo Copeland told CaseLoad the firm discovered in talking to people that they had quite a number of staff who identified as gay but were not "out" at work.

She says young gay graduates were advised by friends and families that because the law was a conservative profession, they needed to be careful not to let people know they were gay because it might limit their career opportunities.

"This was a real surprise to the partners and we decided to do something about it," said Jo.

"We know that as a profession lawyers suffer higher rates of depression than other professionals. We thought that if we could stop someone from having to suppress who they are we could eliminate that source of anxiety or stress for our people."

Simpson Grierson chairman Kevin Jaffe.

"It just seemed like a no brainer in this day and age."

Rainbow Tick director Michael Stevens is delighted with Simpson Grierson's position.

"This is a clear and positive sign to their entire workforce that they can bring their authentic selves to work," Mr Stevens says. "It's a real sign of the times."

Simpson Grierson has yet to share with CaseLoad how many gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, takatapui and intersex folk they employ and how many are partners.

"When will the judiciary take a leaf out of this book?" said The Scunner, noting that on average 10 per cent of people identify as other than heterosexual in the population generally.

But, as anyone who knows anything about this sort of thing will tell you, that does not necessarily mean there are 19 or so LGBTI judges out there.

Follow The Money

Salaried partners' salaries range from low $80,000 to $300,000 plus. Photo / NZ Herald

Senior solicitors' salaries tend to level off if they don't progress to partnership, a survey of 61 mid-size and boutique Auckland region law firms by legal recruiter Legal Personnel shows.

Salaried partners' salaries showed considerable variation, ranging from low $80,000 to $300,000 plus - which Legal Personnel says reflects the wide variety of small, boutique and mid-tier practices surveyed.

Overall there have been modest salary increases but not any significant change in 12 months.

From graduate level to seven year's post qualified experience (PQE) the average salary steps up consistently, with the range starting to increase from five years PQE onward.

From eight years PQE inward, the average figures plateau and jump around a bit, with the nine year PQE average $11,000 higher than the ten year PQE level.

Legal Personnel says this indicates that once solicitors reach seven to eight years PQE, salaries begin to reflect performance rather than straight PQE level.

Source: NZ Law Society Law Points.

Law No Place For Mature Lady Briefs

According to the 2013 Census, 55 per cent of lawyers are aged 44 or under.

Customised data indicates that while 43 per cent of male lawyers were aged 44 or under, they were outnumbered by 71 per cent of female lawyers in the same age bracket.

Women make up 46 per cent of all lawyers and made up 62 per cent of those admitted to the profession in 2013.

Women far outnumber men in the age group from 20 to 44, but drop away sharply in the age group 45 to 70 plus.

The number of female admissions overtook men for the first time in 1993, and while Law Society data shows women make up 57 per cent of lawyers in practice for 20 years or less, women make up only 2 per cent of lawyers in practice for 40 years or more.

Source: Dept of Statistics.

Evgeny Orlov Un-Struck Off - Shock Ruling

Evgeny Orlov was found guilty of serious disgraceful misconduct but striking him off was too harsh a penalty.

In a decision which has baffled some, Auckland barrister Evgeny Orlov, who was struck off after a long and acrimonious wrangle involving High Court Justice Rhys Harrison (now of the Court of Appeal) has been un-struck off.

In a nut shell, High Court Justices Ron Young and Simon France ruled on judicial review that - while agreeing that the Lawyers and Conveyancers Disciplinary Tribunal was correct in finding Mr Orlov guilty of serious disgraceful misconduct - striking him off was too harsh a penalty.

In Their Honours' words it was "a disproportionate response."

Observers reckon it means High Court judges might be expected to have thicker hides.

The well reported case has been going round the block for years as Mr Orlov sought to defend his assertion that in courtroom clashes Justice Harrison was biased towards, had improper motives and didn't like him because he was Russian - among other nasty things.

Mr Orlov made a series of extreme allegations against Justice Harrison - including that he was a danger to the public - none of which had any substance.

For his part Justice Harrison had concerns about Mr Orlov's approach and competency and at one stage made a rare personal costs award against the lawyer for cocking-up a case.

Mr Orlov, who claimed he was "a politically persecuted person," didn't help him self by being persistently rude and insulting to the disciplinary tribunal.

He compared the tribunal variously with the Spanish Inquisition, a Stalinist show trial and accused it of creating an atmosphere that existed in Nazi Germany.

At court he talked of kangaroos hopping about.

An advance press release in which Mr Orlov repeated unacceptable comments and described his forthcoming disciplinary tribunal hearing as a "show trial" didn't do him any favours either.

Justice Ron Young. Photo / NZPA

Notwithstanding, Justices Young and France considered striking off was too severe a response to a first offence of misconduct involving speech directed against a judge and which did not involve mistreatment of clients or their money.

"Mr Orlov can now be under no illusions as to the standards rightly expected of all members of the profession, and that he will need to modify how he goes about airing his grievances," the judges said.

Footnote 1: Figures supplied by the New Zealand Law Society (NZLS) show that between 2000 (2) and so far in 2014 (6) - and no longer including Evgeny Orlov - 68 lawyers have been struck off.

Eight were struck off in 2013.

While a yearly average of nearly five strike-offs is not good statistically, there were 8,287 lawyers in 2000 compared with 12,800 now, so maybe it balances out.

Footnote 2: So you really think this means lawyers can abuse judges with impunity? Go ahead, make Their Honours' day...

Seen & Heard

• New partner Simon Weil is to lead Christchurch firm Anthony Harper's trusts and assets team. A co-author of Brookers New Zealand Guide to Trusts, he is one of the first New Zealand members of the London-based society of trust and estate practitioners.

• Sophie Lucas has joined Wynn Williams' Auckland office where she will work alongside Richard Hern as a senior insurance associate. She has worked in-house at major insurers and as an external legal provider specialising in defending claims against professionals.

• Commercial property solicitor Nicola Harrison, who specialises in corporate and commercial matters, is a new associate at Auckland firm Glaister Ennor.

• After a spell at an Australian law firm, Claire O'Sullivan has joined Buddle Findlay's Auckland office as a banking and finance solicitor, advised lenders and insolvency practitioners in insolvency and debt recovery.

Footnote 3: Keep up with Jock Anderson's weekly lawyer profiles on the New Zealand Law Society website www.lawsociety.org.nz

Thought For The Week:

(From a Very Senior Legal Person) "At this time the workload decreases...you feel your power ebbing away...it's an election campaign..."

- NZ Herald

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A look behind the scenes of the legal profession

With a life-time of court reporting under his belt - and from the sanctuary of the Ladies & Escorts Lounge - journalist Jock Anderson produces law-flavoured news and views with a touch of humour - occasionally aided and abetted by disparate cronies including Our Man At The Bar and The Scunner.

Read more by Jock Anderson

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