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Travers Smith launches safe word to help lawyers flag inappropriate language

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#ThatsNotCool

City outfit Travers Smith has encouraged its staff to say “that’s not cool” if they feel uncomfortable about a colleague’s language.

The firm-wide #ThatsNotCool campaign provides a mechanism for lawyers and support staff to call out poor word choices (such as “that’s so gay”) and inappropriate comments (for example about the length of an associate’s skirt) on the spot. Speaking to Legal Cheek, Chris Edwards, the firm’s corporate social responsibility and diversity director, adds that the code word can be used not just in relation to language, but behaviour and actions too.

Edwards — who is running the campaign alongside Siân Keall, an employment partner — says the campaign grew organically and is all part of the firm’s drive to be more inclusive and more supportive of its staff.

It also comes in the wake of allegations made against partners at two of the country’s biggest law firms.

At Dentons, the world’s largest law firm by headcount, a partner was placed on a leave of absence following allegations of inappropriate behaviour. He has since left the firm. The global outfit said his behaviour “fell well below the expectations that we have of our partners”, however it “found no evidence of sexual harassment”.

Over at Baker McKenzie, a partner hit headlines when an alleged sexual assault against a female associate came to light. The firm has since apologised for its handling of the accusation, and has now called on fellow City dweller Simmons & Simmons to review how it dealt with the claim.

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Edwards makes clear that the introduction of Travers’ new safe word doesn’t impact pre-existing reporting methods. “It gives staff members the opportunity to call things out then and there,” he says, “but doesn’t replace traditional disciplinary or whistleblowing procedure.” The campaign is being promoted internally through posters and training sessions, and Edwards is pleased to report it’s so far been well received internally.

Perhaps Travers is onto something with its code word push: a similar, non-law firm specific campaign called ‘Ask for Angela’ has gained global praise.

This effort found its feet in bars across Lincolnshire when posters were placed in toilet cubicles encouraging bar-goers who felt unsafe or uncomfortable to alert staff members by asking for Angela. Staff could then help you by, for example, calling you a taxi discreetly. The campaign has since outgrown its Lincolnshire confines and has now been reproduced by the Metropolitan Police Service.

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33 Comments

Anonymous

This is beyond stupid.

(118)(3)

Anonymous

Some would say that it’s not cool…

(60)(0)

Anonymous

I can really see a trainee saying this to a partner… yah.

(42)(0)

Anonymous

I can confirm that… I was screaming it at the top of my voice all day but it made no difference…

(3)(1)

Anonymous

3 words is not a safe word.

(50)(0)

Anonymous

It’s a safe phrase!

(6)(0)

Anonymous

If you don’t say the hashtag first is it really safe?

(19)(0)

Barrister

Obviously people should not use offensive language in the workplace, but this campaign strikes me as being the product of a self-righteous HR jobsworth. Things like this make me happy to be self-employed.

(36)(2)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(82)(2)

Anonymous

Haha I cannot believe that they are paying someone a director level salary, and this is the best they can come up with!

(15)(1)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(6)(4)

Anonymous

This is doubleplus ungood

(9)(0)

Morty

I thought the safe word was “sea cucumber”?

(14)(0)

Anonymous

A Greek accordion player of my acquaintance refers to sea cucumbers as sea penises.

Just saying.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

#metoo

(2)(1)

Anonymous

This is utterly ridiculous.

If you are uncomfortable with the language someone is using, just tell them. These are professional, educated people – not toddlers.

(16)(2)

Ciaran Goggins

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

Just looked on twitter under #thatsnotcool

First tweet:

‘Ain’t nothing more embarrassing than ya lor dick bf trying cheat on you..😂 “Like n*gga you out here showing b*tches what I’m settling for” 😒 #ThatsNotCool’

Law firm talk has certainly moved on since my day.

(56)(0)

Very amused

If it’s not cool, presumably it is hot?

(4)(0)

Anonymous

Could be tepid.

(4)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(0)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

How is this a safe word? They’re just advising on how to deal with comments like that — it is a useful phrase for criticising someone without being too non-confrontational. I’ve used it myself on occasion.

(0)(3)

Anonymous

“Well received internally” – Lol! Every person in their right mind both within and outside of the firm thinks this is an embarrassing joke.

(17)(0)

Anonymous

…but they don’t dare say so. Oh the irony!

(10)(0)

LL.D (Chicago)

>Partner touches inside of trainee’s thigh
>’That’s not cool’
>???
>Sexual assault continues

(14)(0)

Cynical Cynthia

Starting to think that the Legal Cheek staff spend a higher proportion of their day censoring comments than coming up with material for their website.

Unfortunate.

(5)(0)

Anonymous

Agree. This site is becoming boring

(1)(1)

Anonymous

Totally.

(0)(1)

Anonymous

Guys, #that’snotcool

(2)(0)

Anonymous

Rip off her tights and buy her a new pair. #thatssofuckingcool

(1)(2)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

Anonymous

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.

(1)(0)

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