This post deals with sexual harassment and assault and might be triggering for some readers.
It was after a work function. Evelyn* was sharing an Uber home with colleagues from the legal firm where she worked. A senior boss was in the front passenger seat. She, a friend and a barrister were in the back.
Some time into the journey, the barrister reached across.
"His hand started on my lap and then tried to get up under my work dress," she told Mamamia's daily news podcast, The Quicky.
"You just completely freeze... You're paralysed that someone's seeing it, and you're wondering, 'Did I do something to egg this on? I thought he just thought I was a good lawyer.'"
Luckily Evelyn's stop was nearby. She said a quick goodbye, and hurried out of the car. Later, she received a text message from him.
"Wow," it read. "You're dangerous."
Evelyn's experience of sexual harassment in the legal profession, sadly, isn't an unusual one. And we may soon be hearing many more.
Listen to more of Evelyn's story on The Quicky. (Post continues below.)
There's anticipation the industry could be on the cusp of a long-awaited 'Me Too' reckoning, following revelations about former High Court judge, Dyson Heydon.
An independent inquiry commissioned by the High Court concluded last week that the 70-year-old sexually harassed six former associates while serving on the bench between 2003 and 2013.
The allegations showed that Heydon consistently touched, kissed or propositioned the junior lawyers, and that his behaviour was an 'open secret' among the legal community.
And that may not be all. Over the weekend, Attorney-General Christian Porter ordered his department to look into fresh allegations of harassment against Heydon, after The Sydney Morning Herald reported claims made by a woman who worked alongside him as an admin assistant during his tenure as the royal commissioner investigating trade unions.
Heydon denies any wrongdoing.
"They've got so much to lose." The culture of silence.
The Quicky spoke to several women in the legal profession who have personally experienced sexual harassment or misconduct in the workplace.
"It's not that rare for this to happen," Evelyn said. "And the upper echelons of the organisation will send emails and say, 'This is outrageous!' And it's like, 'Come on, guys. You know eight people who've done it this week.'"
Research certainly suggests the problem is rife.
In 2018, the International Bar Association conducted the largest-ever global survey on sexual harassment in the legal profession, and Australia ranked among the worst offenders.