Top law firm Russell McVeagh has announced they will undertake an external review in response to "serious" sexual allegations involving law students.

The firm sent out a press release on Friday afternoon that said the board was in the process of finalising the appointment of a suitably qualified person, outside of the legal community to undertake the review.

This comes after former staff members spoke out about sexually inappropriate behaviour by top lawyers towards summer law clerks.

Another former female staffer who worked at the firm for more than four years claimed the company had failed to address other complaints raised about staff conduct, including excessive drinking and inappropriate behaviour at work functions.


Two incidents reportedly happened at Christmas functions and another at the El Horno Bar in Wellington.

At least one complaint was made to police about a man's behaviour at El Horno.

Victoria University Vice Chancellor Grant Guilford told the NZHerald last week that he understood a young law clerk student who was part of a summer programme made an allegation of sexual assault.

Guilford said he was aware of several other young women who also allegedly experienced sexually inappropriate behaviour at the time.

Russell McVeagh chief executive Gary McDiarmid said full internal investigations were conducted after the allegations were made.

"Those who were the subject of the allegations left the firm following the investigation," McDiarmid said earlier.

The review announced today would include all actions taken in response to the specific incidents, management practices and policies in relation to preventing sexual harassment and supporting those who wished to make complaints and the organisational culture of the firm.

The release stated that what happened in the summer of 2015/16 was "completely unacceptable" and said the "brave" women who spoke out about it at the time had led to actions being taken to improve the workplace culture.


The statement said the firm believed the actions taken immediately after becoming aware of the incidents were the right ones

"Our ongoing approach to ensuring that no incidents of sexual harassment or bullying occur in our workplace is relentless and is supported by our partners and staff.

"We need to understand if, how, and where we made errors so that we can apply those learnings in the future in our management practice and embed them in our culture," the release said.

The reviewer would make recommendations for change which they believed were appropriate and would have full access to all material and staff.

Current staff would also be expected to participate in the review and former staff and summer clerks would also be invited to participate.

The final review recommendations would be shared with parties which the company had a professional obligation to, including the women involved, staff, clients, and the Law Society.