A partner at a top law firm has resigned following an investigation into complaints about inappropriate comments made while drunk.

Russell McVeagh board chairman Malcolm Crotty made the announcement today.

"A thorough investigation substantiates the complaints and the partner concerned has apologised and tendered his resignation," Crotty said.

"We are deeply disappointed in the partner at the centre of the investigation.


"The partner concerned let the firm down and we have now lost trust and confidence in him. The Board determined that his conduct has fallen below our expected standards and we have accepted his resignation."

Russell McVeagh chairman Malcolm Crotty said a
Russell McVeagh chairman Malcolm Crotty said a "thorough investigation substantiates the complaints". Photo / File

Crotty said there was no place for inappropriate conduct at the firm but he was encouraged that staff had spoken up despite the circumstances.

The firm was committed to changing the culture of the organisation, he said.

"We all recognise that change requires collective and long-term commitment. All partners in the firm agreed to uphold and lead the change."

He said the firm had arranged to meet with the New Zealand Law Society.

Former litigation lawyer and industry whistleblower Olivia Wensley said the Law Society isn't doing enough by letting these partners step down.

"Not a single lawyer to date has been disbarred or censured as a result. I think the Society is being extremely negligent and so slow to resolve these issues," she said.

"Young women are being put at risk every day when they're working with these known predators.


"There's a real culture in New Zealand of partners leaving and the issue being swept under the rug."

In July Dame Margaret Bazley released a damning report after a "work hard, play hard" culture of excessive drinking was exposed at the law firm amongst alleged incidents of sexual harassment.

Bazley interviewed 250 people from the firm to get to the bottom of allegations that five summer clerks were sexually harassed over the summer of 2015/2016.

Dame Margaret Bazley released a damning report in July after a
Dame Margaret Bazley released a damning report in July after a "work hard, play hard" culture of excessive drinking was exposed at the law firm. Photo / File

The 89-page report found junior lawyers and young staff were encouraged to "drink to excess" in a culture where crude, drunken and sexually inappropriate behaviour was rife throughout the firm.

At the time Crotty acknowledged they made "serious mistakes" in how the 2015/16 allegations were handled.

"The board and partners of Russell McVeagh are deeply sorry for the impact that the incidents of 2015/16 have had on the young women involved and our people.

"We have apologised to the young women for the hurt and damage we caused. We recognise that they have shown great courage and applaud them for this.

"Their actions will result in meaningful change," Crotty said.

Wensley told the Herald Russell McVeagh used the release of Bazley's report as a PR stunt, promising the issue will be resolved.

"Within weeks of the Bazley report coming out, this incident happened," she said.

"In Australia, firms can't discharge their obligation by simply removing the partner. The firm still faces consequences and that comes in the form of a fine and censures for other partners who knew but took no action."

The New Zealand Law Society confirmed a meeting had been scheduled with Russell McVeagh following the firm's request, a spokesman said.

"From time to time law firms meet with the Law Society to discuss matters such as the process for reporting a matter when unacceptable conduct is alleged to have occurred," the spokesman said.

"The Law Society encourages law firms to report unacceptable conduct so it can be referred to independent lawyers standards committees (made up of lawyers and laypersons) who can determine if disciplinary action should be taken."