Lawyers intervened to protect clerk
A further incident has come to light involving one of the men at the centre of claims of serious sexual assault at law firm Russell McVeagh - just months after his departure from the law firm.
Two informants have provided detailed information to Newsroom about events that played out at a lawyers' conference after-party in a provincial town.
Newsroom revealed on Wednesday that five clerks on the firm’s summer programme made complaints of serious sexual assault and harassment against two male lawyers at the firm.
In the latest revelation, a group of people had to intervene to help a summer clerk being pursued by one of the two men at a bar, where lawyers from the conference had gathered late at night.
A number of lawyers were upset to see the man “making a beeline” towards a woman, “who was significantly younger and more junior” than him, an eye-witness said. The behaviour reportedly became so bad the watching group moved in to assist the woman.
“It was just after midnight. I had fears for the girl, as I saw him making a beeline towards her. He took her down into another part of the bar away from the crowd, which led to a handful of people helping her.”
The woman has not been named to protect her privacy. She was escorted home.
“No one went to the police out of respect for the woman and for fear of jeopardising her career.
“[The man] is obviously a very connected and powerful person in our profession, and I wouldn’t have wanted her to be remembered for this incident, or associated to him.
“I’m very wary of dredging up emotions and there’s been a pattern of this type of behaviour from him, it wasn’t just this one-off event that happened a couple of years ago. People have known about it for a long time."
Another witness told Newsroom the man fetched the woman drinks and “was making an overt and unequivocal effort to take her home”.
The man is “well-known for this sort of behaviour and had sought to take mostly young women home at events like this”.
Once he became aware the group had intervened by distracting him, “he responded to this with anger and tried to find the female”.
Since breaking the original story, Newsroom has been contacted by many people. Messages have included offers of support from female lawyers, allegations of serious misconduct and bullying at Russell McVeagh, while others have offered to supply information about the case.
Among accounts from former staff at the firm was a separate, historic incident of inappropriate conduct from a senior male lawyer towards an intern, which saw him removed from the practice.
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