Background and purpose of this Policy

New rules governing the behaviour of lawyers, with an emphasis on tackling bullying and harassment, came into force on 1 July 2021. The changes amended the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers:  Conduct and Client Care) Rules 2008 at Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Amendment Rules 2021 (Rules).  The Rules provide for situations when a team member of Aspiring Law Limited (Aspiring Law) is subject to Unacceptable Conduct (defined below at Appendix 1) by a client.

This Policy addresses this situation.

The Policy  

  1. Aspiring Law is committed to providing a safe and enjoyable environment for everyone that is connected to our Workplace[1].   
  2. We also do not accept clients engaging in Unacceptable Conduct towards any member of our team.  All clients and other people that we engage with (e.g., contractors) can reasonably be expected to be treated with respect. 
  3. Aspiring Law will consider terminating a retainer with a client if it is found that a client is engaging in Unacceptable Conduct towards a team member or any other people associated with Aspiring Law.

The scope of this Policy

This Policy covers behaviour across all aspects of our Workplace.  Workplace covers all activities connected with legal work and the provision of legal services of Aspiring Law and includes:

  • Working or social activities in any of our office locations. 
  • Activities away from our premises including client’s premises, courts, mediation; meetings, or education or professional development events;
  • Networking events such as Chamber of Commerce events or training;
  • Off-site firm social events; and
  • All activities incidental to these activities.

What is Unacceptable Conduct

  1. The following behaviours[2] are not permitted at any time in our Workplace, including any work related off-site social or other activities.  These include:
  • Discrimination
  • Bullying
  • Harassment
  • Sexual harassment
  • Violence (physical, sexual violence, abuse, and assault)
  1. Engaging in these behaviours is contrary to the Rules and is incompatible with the values and standards of this firm.  Any instances of such conduct, or any complaints about such conduct, will be dealt with in accordance with this Policy. 

Our expectation

While this Policy is aimed at addressing Unacceptable Conduct, we want to be clear that we do not accept any bad behaviour that may fall outside the scope of Unacceptable Conduct.   With this in mind, we encourage reports or conversations about other bad behaviour.   Ultimately, our goal is to provide everyone with a safe and enjoyable place to work. 

Unacceptable Conduct by a client

We will not tolerate unacceptable behaviour by clients that is directed towards our team.  Reports about a client engaging in Unacceptable Conduct may be good cause to terminate a retainer.  

However, it is not grounds to terminate a retainer if a team member does not “like” or have a “dim” personal view of a client, or their goals.  Our moral judgments of clients will not interfere with us acting in a client’s best interests. 

If a team member claims they are subject to Unacceptable Conduct by a client, then the following procedures will apply:

  1. The team member will report the conduct using an internal reporting procedure.
  2. Before terminating a retainer, a director of Aspiring Law will consider alternatives to the working arrangement. 
  3. Aspiring Law will work within the requirements of the Rules and a client will be consulted about any complaint made about them.
  4. Whatever the outcome, our priority is to our team to keep them safe. 
  5. A client will be advised of the decision of the director.   The rules outlined in Aspiring Law’s Terms of Engagement will apply to any termination.


Appendix 1


We have adopted the following definitions as set out in Rule 1.2 of the Lawyers and Conveyancers Act (Lawyers: Conduct and Client Care) Amendment Rules 2021.

Unacceptable Conduct means we do not accept bullying, discrimination, harassment, racial harassment, sexual harassment, or violence at any level – whether in-house or externally (defined as Prohibited Behaviour in the rules).

Bullying means repeated and unreasonable behaviour directed towards a person or people that is LIKELY to lead to physical or psychological harm.   Appendix 2 sets out examples of what bullying is and what it is not.  Bullying can be both direct and indirect actions.  See additional information on bullying here.

Discrimination means discrimination that is unlawful under the Human Rights Act 1993 or any other enactment.  The prohibited grounds of discrimination are sex, marital status, religious belief, colour, race, disability, age, political opinion, employment status, family status, and sexual orientation. 

Harassment means:

    1. intimidating, threatening, or degrading behaviour directed towards a person or group that is likely to have a harmful effect on the recipient; and
    2. includes repeated behaviour but may be a serious single incident. 

Racial Harassment means behaviour that:

  1. expresses hostility against, or contempt or ridicule towards, another person on the ground of race, ethnicity, or national origin; and
  2. is likely to be unwelcome or offensive to that person (whether or not it was conveyed directly to that person).

Sexual Harassment means:

  1. subjecting another person to unreasonable behaviour of a sexual nature that is likely to be unwelcome or offensive to that person (whether or not it was conveyed directly to that person); or
  2. a request made by a person of any other person for sexual intercourse, sexual contact, or any other form of sexual activity that contains an implied or overt promise of preferential treatment or an implied or overt threat of detrimental treatment.

Threshold For Bullying

Actual harm (e.g., physical, or psychological harm) does not need to have resulted for a finding that bullying has occurred; rather, there must be a real and substantial risk of the relevant consequence resulting.  It must be likely. 

The test is objective, but does consider, for example, the known vulnerability of an individual.  


Appendix 2


Bullying can include:[3]

Personal attacks


Task-related attacks


Examples can include:

Examples can include:

Belittling remarks – undermining integrity – lies being told – sense of judgment questioned – opinions marginalised

Giving unachievable tasks – impossible deadlines – unmanageable workloads – overloading – ‘setting up to fail’

Ignoring – excluding – silent treatment – isolating

Meaningless tasks – unpleasant jobs – belittling a person’s ability – undermining

Attacking a person’s beliefs, attitude, lifestyle, or appearance – gender references – accusations of being mentally disturbed

Withholding or concealing information – information goes missing – failing to return calls or pass on messages

Ridiculing – insulting – persistent teasing – inappropriate, off-colour jokes – ‘funny’ surprises – sarcasm

Undervaluing contribution – no credit where it’s due – taking credit for work that’s not their own

Being shouted or yelled at

Constant criticism of work

Threats of violence

Underwork – working below competence – removing responsibility – demotion

Insulting comments about private life

Unreasonable or inappropriate monitoring

Physical attacks

Offensive sanctions (e.g., denying leave where there is no reason to do so)

Humiliation (in public or private)

Excluding – isolating – ignoring views

Persistent and/or public criticism

Changing goalposts or targets with no good reason

Using obscene or offensive language, gestures or material directed at someone personally, i.e., not an occasional general expletive expressed in frustration or for emphasis

Not giving enough training or resources

Ganging up – colleagues/clients encouraged to criticise or spy – witch hunt – dirty tricks campaign – being singled out

Reducing opportunities for expression – interrupting when speaking

Intimidation – acting in a condescending manner

Supplying incorrect or unclear information

Intruding on privacy (e.g., spying, stalking, harassed by calls when on leave or at weekends)

Making hints or threats about job security

Unwanted sexual approaches, offers, or physical contact

No support from manager

Verbal abuse


Inaccurate accusations

Denial of opportunity

Suggestive glances, gestures, or dirty looks

Judging wrongly

Tampering with personal effects – theft – destruction of property

Forced or unjustified disciplinary hearings

Encouraged to feel guilty

Lack of role clarity

Not trusting




Bullying is not:

One-off or occasional instances of forgetfulness, rudeness, or tactlessness

A reasonable request from a manager

Setting high performance standards

Undertaking a disciplinary process when there are reasonable grounds to do so

Constructive feedback and genuine peer review

A single incident of unreasonable behaviour



[1] Any of our office locations which, at the time of writing, includes Wanaka, Arrowtown, Christchurch and Dunedin. 

[2] Full definitions at end of Policy at Appendix 1.

[3] You can find more examples on the Worksafe website