Legalweek comes under fire for multiple alleged occurrences of sexual harassment 

Edited 5 February 3.30pm GMT to say that the majority but not all of the incidents reported by Deeanna Fleener took place at Legalweek. 


A post on LinkedIn has sparked demands for immediate condemnation, action, and widespread change after an attendee at Legalweek said that in a group of 29 women in attendance at the New York conference, 20 reported having experienced inappropriate behaviour at a conference. The majority – albeit not all – of the incidents reported are said to have taken place at Legalweek. Some of the behaviour identified would be classed as sexual assault. 

Deeanna Fleener, VP of solution management at Deloitte, posted on Friday (2 February): “A great Legalweek has been clouded by some unfortunate actions. I’m sharing some anonymous comments from women that were in attendance this week. In a group of 29 women, 20 had personal stories of inappropriate behavior at a conference. That is unacceptable and we have to do better.” 


Examples that Fleener gave include anonymous quotes such as, “A leader at a firm showed me a video of 2 girls under 20 in his bedroom naked and invited me and the other woman I was with to join him,” and, “Last night, I was propositioned in the most graphic way I’ve ever heard. When I turned him down, he tried to convince me to leave with him by telling me his pregnant wife was on bedrest and I was doing her a favor.” 

Even more seriously, Fleener also says that a woman went to the bathroom and was pulled into the men’s room by a man who then wouldn’t let her leave, and that a young salesperson was grabbed under her skirt by a coworker. 

At the time of writing, the post has 397 reactions, 190 comments and 19 reposts. Both men and women in the industry have responded by condemning the behaviour reported and sharing their own experiences of suffering such behaviour or hearing direct reports of it while at the conference in New York. Many point out that this behaviour is by no means isolated to Legalweek and is prevalent across legal tech conferences in general. 

In a post on Saturday (3 February) Marla Crawford, general counsel at Cimplifi, said that she had heard about the issues of harassment at ‘off campus’ gatherings at conferences generally and Legalweek recently (toward women mostly, but also aimed at men), and has raised the issue with the Legalweek Advisory Board. She called on service providers to set expectations with all conference attendees about the kind of conduct that will not be tolerated.  

Legalweek conference organiser ALM shared a statement with Legal IT Insider saying: “ALM has been made aware of reports of occurrences of highly inappropriate behavior, including harassment and assault, occurring at unaffiliated venues in New York City during the week of its Legalweek event. We first want to vehemently condemn all such actions and reiterate our strong position that any such behavior has zero place in any setting.  

“While these acts did not occur on site at Legalweek or at any conference-sponsored events, ALM prides itself on the community connections it creates and is committed to partnering with other key stakeholders to prevent harassment of any industry member. Our longstanding events policy provides that ALM is dedicated to providing a respectful conference experience for everyone and harassment of any kind will not be tolerated. We will continue to work internally and with external stakeholders in the community to determine how we can best champion meaningful, positive change for the legal community and address the larger problem in the industry.” 

Communications consultant Michael Evans, who has worked in the legal sector for nearly two decades and is now joint managing director of reputation management company Byfield Consultancy, says that decisive action is now required by ALM and businesses attending the conference. 

He told Legal IT Insider: “Reports of multiple occurrences of inappropriate behaviour at Legalweek point to a potential systemic issue, where a culture of ‘anything goes’ seems to have become entrenched among at least a few delegates.

“Stopping this requires decisive action and communication by both the organiser – ALM – and businesses attending the event, who collectively need to make it very clear that no such behaviour by their people will be tolerated, with real consequences for non-compliance. Turning a blind eye enables and endorses such bad behaviour, which is simply unacceptable.

“Real estate conference MIPIM faced a similar issue a number of years ago, and in response created a Code of Conduct for the event itself, backed by strong support from industry bodies and the biggest players in the sector. ALM needs to take similar action here, with backing from the biggest law firms and legal tech companies involved in the conference.” 

Fleener has shared a Legal Tech Community Support Intake form which says: “Following numerous allegations of sexual misconduct and inappropriate behavior in the legal tech community, we’ve been overwhelmed by messages from individuals eager to contribute towards tackling the challenges we face. To streamline and effectively coordinate these generous efforts, we’ve established this form as a central hub for volunteer information.” You can fill it in here.


2 thoughts on “Legalweek comes under fire for multiple alleged occurrences of sexual harassment ”

  1. As a leader in this field, I am appalled although not surprised at this behavior. Women in eDiscovery is working with other organizations to assemble a task force to address the egregious behaviors at this and other conferences. We need to work together to put an end to sexual harassment of our women and men. Beth Finkle, Executive Director of Women in eDiscovery.

  2. Outrageous. I am glad WiE, an organization I belong to, has condemned this harassment of attendees.

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