The Melbourne University Law Students’ Society’s role is to enrich student life at Melbourne Law School. We provide events and initiatives that are in the best interests of students and also advocate on students’ behalf on key issues. We take our role as student leaders very seriously, and cherish the opportunity we are given to drive change within the profession and work to enhance the experiences of students entering the field.
It is important for us to ensure that our sponsor organisations reflect our values and our commitment to changing the profession for the better. To this end, we are extremely proud to be introducing an Ethical Sponsorship policy in 2020.
Our policy will focus on two key issues: Sexual harassment in the legal profession, and mental health and wellbeing. These are issues that students want to hear about and are live issues in the legal profession. This year we encouraged our sponsors to submit a short statement, addressing the organisation’s official stance regarding these two issues as well as details of any specific initiatives. These statements can be read below.
Inclusion and diversity
Allens has long been committed to inclusion and diversity. Harnessing the many talents of our people helps us connect with our clients, solve complex problems, innovate and attract even more great people.
As a team, we have many different stories, but we stand side-by-side in delivering exceptional outcomes for our clients and communities.
Allens’ inclusion and diversity strategy focuses on implementing the right structures, driving inclusive behaviours and building ‘hearts and minds’ commitment across a range of pillars, including gender, parents and carers, LGBTQ+, Indigenous, cultural and linguistic diversity and flexible work. We’re looking to build on inclusion as a strength, mainstream flexible work and actively support and manage our talented people throughout their careers.
Mental health and wellbeing
We take the health and wellbeing of our people seriously at Allens. We know wellbeing is a combination of physical, mental, emotional and social health factors, and our approach to wellbeing reflects this.
Our wellbeing framework focuses on four key areas:
- Mind: developing healthy minds encompassing mental health and resilience
- Body: recognising the importance of physical health and fitness
- Culture: appreciating the role of leadership and the impact of our work environment on wellbeing
- Connection: acknowledging the necessity of purpose and relationships that sustain and support us
Examples of initiatives we use to support wellbeing across these areas include: flexible work and leave policies, professional counselling, gym memberships, flu vaccines, healthy catering, parental leave transition coaching, carer referral services, fitness challenges, and targeted campaigns, pilots and programs. Each lawyer is assigned a Performance Coach who supports their wellbeing and assists with workload management. Other employees are supported by their managers.
Equal employment opportunity, bullying and harassment policy
Allens is also committed to the principles of equal employment opportunity (EEO) and ensuring our workplace is free from discrimination, harassment and bullying.
Providing a safe and supportive workplace is critical to our business. We value the diversity of our workforce, respect the differences between individuals, and recognise that each person has individual talents and skills to bring to their role.
Our EEO policy sets outs responsibilities and applies to behaviour at work. All employees must complete online EEO training when they commence and refresher training during their employment.
Adherence to LIV clerkship and traineeship guidelines
In 2020, we are once again signatories to the LIV guidelines for clerkship and traineeship (graduate) roles and will be strictly adhering to the guidelines. We are mindful of the candidate experience and pride ourselves on keeping our candidates informed at each step of the recruitment process, as well as providing transparency throughout the process and on offer day.
We encourage candidates to reach out if they are unclear on our process or have any questions: your wellbeing—particularly during this process—is vital.
At Ashurst, we see the health and wellbeing of our people as essential to achieving our goal of being an exceptional place to work.
Law is a people business and our aim is to foster a climate within the firm where people operate at their best. The work we do is demanding, our standards are high and there are many pressures on people’s time and energy.
Resilience is important for managing these pressures, and stress management is critical to resilience. If we learn to manage stress we can successfully keep it at levels where it energises performance rather than detracting from it.
Our wellbeing programs are directed at raising awareness and building skills in identifying, preventing and managing stress, and helping our people build confidence and resilience.
Some of the practical measures we take include:
- Access to LifeWorks the firm’s Employee Assistance Program for partners, staff and immediate family members
- Access to Wellbeing Officers across the firm
- Access to Mental Health First Aid Officers
- Access to Healthy Living sessions
- Free annual flu vaccinations
- Subsidised gym membership
- Ongoing involvement in local sporting teams and sporting events
- Access to discounted nib health insurance
- Access to the Specsavers Corporate Club
- Salary continuance insurance at no cost to most partners and staff
Our partners are also invited to attend resilience and mental health training to help them better identify employees at risk.
Ashurst Australia is also taking all reasonable steps to prevent sexual harassment occurring in the firm.
The firm is ensuring that all partners and staff members clearly understand what sexual harassment is by introducing an ongoing education program.
All partners and managers must reinforce the message to their staff that sexual harassment is unlawful, not acceptable and that any victimisation of those who speak against it will not be tolerated.
Ashurst Australia has also set up procedures to ensure that sexual harassment matters are resolved.
The firm has nominated a number of Contact Officers. They assist and advise on options for resolving the situation, either informally or through more formal channels.
Ashurst is a signatory of the LIV Seasonal Clerkship and Traineeship Guidelines again in 2020. We strongly believe that the guidelines provide a fair, transparent and wellbeing focused process that benefit both the firms and candidates working within them. We strongly encourage all candidates to contact us if they have any questions or concerns regarding our recruitment process.
Adherence to LIV Clerkship & Traineeship Guidelines
Clayton Utz is a signatory to both the LIV Seasonal Clerkship and Traineeship Guidelines 2020. As a firm, we recognise the importance of transparency for students as they move through the recruitment process. Our decision to be a signatory to these guidelines is to ensure that students are given a fair and equitable chance to consider all available opportunities on a level playing field. We believe this allows students to make informed decisions about how they would like to begin their career without unnecessary additional pressures and/or stress.
Mental Health and Wellbeing
Clayton Utz takes the mental health and wellbeing of its Partners and employees seriously. We have a range of robust policies, procedures and initiatives to best support our people. These include an Anti-Discrimination, Sexual Harassment & Bullying policy, Flexible Work Policy and a Domestic and Family Violence (DFV) policy.
- We recognise the impacts of DFV on individuals and the workplace; and through our DFV policy, we’re committed to supporting people at risk by providing a safe and supportive work environment. Our policy provides support options for our people who are exposed to DFV, and guidance and support for Partners/managers and colleagues who are assisting individuals in these situations.
- Additionally, Clayton Utz takes a systematic approach to risk management. As part of this, we have established an intervention framework that addresses risk and protective factors (including suicide prevention). We also have a comprehensive early return to work and psychological rehabilitation programs. This ensures that our support continues to be people-centric and is fully integrated across all areas of health and wellness.
- We offer our people the opportunity to volunteer as mental health advocates and drive awareness and education around mental health across the firm. We offer this through training as a Mental Health First Aid officer or Mental Health Champion. This training has equips individuals with skills to help identify and start conversations around mental health. Everyone who completes this training has a clear identifier at their desk and in our virtual address book. This makes them easily accessible as a point of contact or referral if an employee needs it.
- We foster a culture of positive mental health and wellness. To support this we regularly offer training and development to our people to promote positive mental health and wellbeing initiatives. By offering regular sessions and education around wellness, we’re ensuring we can maintain an open dialogue across our people in each office.
3) Appointment of National Mental Health Manager and Health, Safety & Wellbeing Manager
- To further advance our progress in the mental health and wellbeing space, Clayton Utz appointed Emma Howard (National Mental Health Manager) and Julio Bara (Health, Safety & Wellbeing Manager) in 2019 to provide expertise and ensure best practice around our integrated mental health and health and wellbeing and strategies. This also ensures we can continue to develop and evolve our policies and in-house initiatives.
4) External Support
- Clayton Utz engaged with the Centre for Corporate Health to manage its external Employee Assistance Provider (CU Assist). It is available around-the-clock for confidential counselling, both for employees and their immediate family.
Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession
Research from the 2019 International Bar Association survey shows there is a culture of sexual harassment and bullying amongst the global legal industry. The firm has a zero-tolerance for bullying and sexual harassment.
As a firm, we took on board the findings in the Independent Review of Russell McVeagh (NZ) to ensure we are fostering a positive culture. This also informed that our policies and procedures continue to remain sustainable while proactively preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
Our commitment to ensuring a workplace free from sexual harassment includes:
- Clayton Utz has an Anti-Discrimination, Sexual Harassment & Bullying policy backed by mandatory online and face-to-face training led by our Workplace Relations partners. A focus on preventing sexual harassment is reinforced through our Drug and Alcohol policy and also considered in our progressive Gender Diverse and Gender Affirmation policy. In 2019 we introduced Contact Officers in each of our offices. Contact officers are a new support group with which anyone can raise workplace issues or concerns. They are an additional layer of support and can provide initial guidance on escalating the concern or identify the options available under our firm’s policies and procedures.
- As a new starter at Clayton Utz, your onboarding includes training around expected behaviour. We also conduct refresher training for all Partners and employees every two years in accordance with the Workplace Gender Equality Agency guidelines.
- Additionally, we offer training to all employees on the intended and unintended consequences of inappropriate behaviour including “casual sexism.” Rolling out improved awareness and training helps to ensure our employees understand the impacts within a workplace as well as steps to prevent instances of casual sexism.
- The firm encourages/mandates unconscious bias training for graduates, Partners and managers at key points in the talent cycle. This improves awareness around diversity education and managing anti-discrimination in the workplace.
3) Australian Human Rights Commission’s National Inquiry into Sexual Harassment in Australian Workplaces
- As a firm, we supported the above national inquiry (of which the Report was recently released). As part of this participation, we were proactive in waiving non-disclosure agreements to ensure our Partners and employees felt empowered to make confidential submissions, should they wish to do so.
Corrs Chambers Westgarth
Corrs recognises the importance of health and wellbeing and is committed to providing a safe and healthy workplace through a range of programs and policies. In particular, we offer a range of initiatives that bring insight and awareness to assist people in maintaining good overall health. Importantly, we also recognise the role a person’s manager plays in their wellbeing and we place emphasis on effective ‘everyday leadership’ and have processes in place to monitor a person’s welfare and workload.
Corrs respects and values the diversity of our workforce and we believe that all people have a right to be treated fairly. We expect all employees to contribute to making our workplace supportive, safe and fair.
Our robust internal policies set out our firm’s unwavering commitment to providing a healthy and safe working environment, free from discrimination, for all our people. We provide regular training for all people on our policies to ensure expectations relating to expected conduct at work are understood and met.
Corrs is a proud signatory to the Law Institute of Victoria’s Seasonal Clerkship Guidelines and recognises the benefits of these guidelines when recruiting our future lawyers.
The wellbeing of our prospective clerks and graduates is a priority for Corrs. By adhering to these guidelines, we aim to provide a fair and positive experience for all students involved in our recruitment process and world-class clerkship and graduate programs.
Gilbert + Tobin
At Gilbert + Tobin, we know our people are our greatest asset and so we have comprehensive policies and practices in place to care for them. Fundamental to achieving our goal of attracting and retaining the best talent is a commitment to creating an environment that is free from discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying, where everyone is treated with dignity, courtesy and respect and where the mental health and wellbeing of our people is prioritised.
We have a firm-wide Diversity Council made up of partners and employees. Their four major streams of focus are gender, flexibility, accessibility and mental wellbeing. As part of our mental wellbeing strategy, we have implemented several new initiatives in the last year, including:
- Launching a firm-wide wellbeing program, ‘Grow + Thrive’, that includes sessions on mental health, wellbeing, resilience, financial health and positive leadership – including firm-wide learning for RUOK? Day.
- Changing our EAP provider (to Centre for Corporate Health) to offer a more comprehensive and improved service to our employees and their families.
- Running national wellbeing events, including ‘wellbeing weeks’ in Sydney and Perth and a ‘wellbeing month’ in Melbourne. Events included free massages, yoga, nutrition seminars, running shoe fit and postural alignment sessions.
- Offering free comprehensive executive health checks for all partners and special counsel.
- Introducing more measures to monitor the workload and hours of our people and ensuring time in lieu is offered to provide an opportunity to rest and recharge.
Managing high volumes of work and tight timelines is an ongoing challenge for our firm and the industry, however, our lawyers have been supported with best-practice technology to ensure they can work flexibly in meeting these demands. Becoming a leader in flexible work in an ongoing project for us and a fundamental part of our business strategy. In October 2018 we announced our new three-year strategy for the firm and a critical element of this ‘taking a leadership position on embracing flexible work practices’.
In 2018 the International Bar Association carried out a global survey exploring bullying and sexual harassment in the legal profession. The survey found that of 1,000 lawyers in Australia, 37% had experienced sexual harassment (compared with 25% globally) and that young lawyers were particularly at risk. Gilbert + Tobin has a zero-tolerance policy towards sexual harassment and we want to be a leader in combatting this issue. In August 2019 we invited Kieran Pender, author of the report ‘Us Too? Bullying and Harassment in the Legal Profession’, to lead a discussion with us on how the industry can ensure positive, safe and inclusive workplaces.
We have several workplace policies + training in place to prevent sexual harassment, including:
- Unconscious Bias training for all employees, designed to complement our progressive D+I agenda.
- Mandatory annual training for all workers on sexual harassment, discrimination and bullying prevention.
- Appropriate workplace behaviour policy that covers discrimination, sexual harassment and bullying.
In addition, we have a strong commitment to diversity and inclusion demonstrated by the fact that:
- We are a Major Partner of the Diversity Council of Australia.
- We have been a WGEA Employer of Choice for Gender Equality since the citation began in 2014.
- We are a Silver Member of the Australia Network on Disability and through our partnership with them have employed legal interns.
- We were a founding signatory to the Law Council’s Gender Equitable Briefing Policy.
- We have a Reconciliation Action Plan (RAP) and are committed to increasing the representation of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians at our firm. One of the key ways this is achieved is through our Indigenous Clerkship Program.
- We support our LGBTIQ+ employee action group called ‘OUT’ with firm events and networking.
In November 2018 we announced a new target for women in partnership of 40% by 2023, with a longer-term goal of gender parity. To support this goal, we introduced superannuation on unpaid parental leave and continue to support working parents through best-practice parental leave entitlements, flexible working options and return-to-work support. We also expanded our ‘Women’s Circle’ program nationally and have worked with clients to support the development of their senior women leaders.
Herbert Smith Freehills
At Herbert Smith Freehills we’ve committed to upholding the following values together; to connect, collaborate, lead and excel.
Allowing each member of our team to bring their best to work, by supporting and upholding our standards of engaging with one another, we’re able to nurture those values and achieve great outcomes for our clients.
Our vision is to create a culture free from stigma, where our people feel that they can discuss their mental health, know how to support others, and where they can easily access support, not just in times of need, but to proactively build positive mental health. It’s a journey, but we’ve already made significant progress. Highlights include our award-winning Mental Health Champions program, our mental health awareness training, our global health and wellbeing hub (providing access to support, information and further resources) and our How We Work guidelines, designed to promote more mindful ways of working and eliminate unnecessary stress.
As a firm, we are committed to creating an inclusive workplace culture – a culture that enables our colleagues to ‘bring the best of themselves’ to work and to progress whatever their background or identity. We do not tolerate sexual harassment in our firm and have taken strong action to ensure that it is challenged and addressed.
Finally, we’d like to make a commitment to you, the legal students approaching clerkship applications. We understand this is a difficult time, rife with decisions that will have a tangible impact on your early career.
To reduce that strain, and to ensure we’re putting your wellbeing first, we are an ongoing signatory to the LIV Clerkship and Traineeship Guidelines. These guidelines allow students to make an informed decision around which priority offers to accept and removes the burden of receiving offers at differing times.
We feel it is incredibly important for that decision to rest with you, and that you are afforded the opportunity to explore the legal opportunities on offer here in Victoria and we will continue to support that freedom of choice.
K & L Gates
K&L Gates expects that all of its employees and its partners carry out their business and perform their duties to the highest ethical standards whilst maintaining respect for all stakeholders. A strong focus for our firm is in providing a safe working environment which is free from discrimination and harassment as well as maintaining a culture that responds effectively to both the physical and psychological needs of our people.
We acknowledge that in particular, sexual harassment has been identified as an issue within the legal industry and we have therefore adopted a number of initiatives to educate our staff and effectively communicate our zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace.
Initiatives to eliminate sexual harassment in the workplace include:
- a comprehensive session on workplace behaviour in our orientation program
- regular mandatory training for all employees and partners on acceptable workplace behaviour delivered by our employment and workplace health and safety lawyers and our human resources staff
- a comprehensive workplace behaviour policy which is issued to all employees and partners on commencement and is available on our intranet
- contact officers in place to assist employees and partners with issues or concerns
- procedures to investigate reports of unacceptable behaviours and disciplinary procedures to address identified issues.
We also recognise that mental health is a major issue within the legal industry and we have adopted the following health and wellbeing initiatives to support our employees and partners:
- a firm funded Employee Assistance Program
- a variety of health and wellbeing initiatives including sporting events, social events, yoga, self-defence classes, gym subsidies and fresh fruit for all staff
- regular training on topics of interest relating to mental health and wellbeing
- a health and wellbeing page on our intranet with tips on a range of health and wellbeing topics and links to online resources
- participation in a variety of health and wellbeing initiatives including R U OK day, the day for the elimination of violence against women, Movember, and International Women’s Day to name a few.
Our commitment to eliminating harassment in the workplace and supporting employees and partners with health and wellbeing initiatives is shared throughout the firm and driven passionately from our Australian Managing Partner and our Global Managing Partner.
King & Wood Mallesons
King & Wood Mallesons, as a signatory to the LIV Seasonal Clerkship and Traineeship Guidelines, supports and adheres to the agreed framework and recognises its value in providing consistency and fairness.
At King & Wood Mallesons, leading in wellbeing is one of our core priority areas. Our wellbeing focus is preventative rather than curative and involves examining our systems and processes to work out where there might be contradictions that could impact the creation of a wellbeing culture. We recognise that wellbeing is multi-faceted and holistic and covers physical and psychological wellbeing, intellectual wellbeing (professional growth) and social connections, interactions and support. Among the initiatives that we have embedded to support positive mental health and wellbeing include:
- One-stop “Managing your workload and wellbeing” dynamic intranet site provides information, policies, processes and support for how we manage our work and the wellbeing of our people, including the risk of fatigue.
- Emphasising our protocols and systems that identify and manage workloads, in particular on “Extra Demand Matters”, to support our people’s wellbeing and development
- Regular career coaching conversations for all lawyers and supporting our people managers with the tools to have meaningful conversations
- Leadership development program for new partners to integrate wellbeing into their leadership roles.
- Confidential Employee Assistance Program and Psychological Rehab Support Program (24/7), both of which report (on an anonymous basis) usage and identify trends for us to proactively action.
Critical to the maintenance of positive mental health and wellbeing is the elimination of inappropriate workplace behaviours including sexual harassment. At King & Wood Mallesons, we are committed to fostering an environment that is fair, safe and based on respect and integrity. Central to this is letting our people know it is safe to speak up to raise concerns regarding sexual harassment. We have comprehensive policies, processes, measures and education in place to safeguard our people and to ensure they understand their rights and responsibilities.