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‘He threw a phone at my head’: International survey reveals bullying rife in the legal profession

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Largest ever study finds one in three females sexually harassed in workplace

A global survey of nearly 7,000 respondents in the legal profession has uncovered a shocking degree of bullying and sexual harassment affecting men and women.

One in two female respondents and one in three male respondents reported bullying, whilst one in three females and one in fourteen males reported sexual harassment in a work context. Cases are predominantly from law firms though also in-house, in barristers’ chambers, judiciary and government.

Alongside the stats, the report reveals testimonies from individual people. One female in an unnamed law firm in the UK said:

“I was advised by the (female) practice manager that if I showed a sexual interest in my principal, he would be nicer to me. This was after he had thrown a phone at my head.”

Another male respondent from a barristers’ chambers in the UK told researchers:

“I often received comments from my supervisor that she wanted to ‘f*ck me’. Any conversation would seem to have a sexual reference in it.”

The report, by the International Bar Association (IBA), an organisation of lawyers, bar associations and law societies across the globe, in conjunction with market research company, Acritas, notes that, despite #MeToo, a “considerable proportion” of those cases appear to have happened in the last 12 months.

With respondents from 135 countries, 715 legal professionals responded to the survey in the UK. Here, there are slightly higher levels of reports of bullying than the international average: 62% of females and 41% of males compared to global figures of 55% and 30% respectively. Sexual harassment cases impacted 38% of female respondents and 6% of male ones.

It is worth noting, however, that the survey does highlight what is known as the ‘perception paradox’: that in countries where sexual harassment and bullying are topical issues, there is greater reporting giving a perception that a problem is disproportionately more prevalent in one country over another. (The IBA hypothesises that in the future there may be an increase in reporting in the short term that could “indicate increased subjective understanding among targets and a greater willingness to report rather than an objective increase in the frequency of such misconduct.”)

The report observes that these problems globally may be structural: “It is not surprising that bullying and sexual harassment are widespread in the profession.” Citing academic research, the report says:

“Researchers have identified characteristics that increase the likelihood of negative workplace behaviours — these include “where leadership is male-dominated… where the power structure is hierarchical, where lower-level employees are largely dependent on superiors for advancement, and where power is highly concentrated in a single person.”

The IBA has recommended a range of actions to tackle the problem including awareness, training, and greater transparency.

Introducing the report, its president, Horacio Bernardes Neto, said: “If the law is to remain in proper standing with the global community, its practitioners must be of good character.” He added: “I implore the legal profession to head the recommendations.”

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53 Comments

Anonymous

Is her boss Russell Crowe?

Anonymous

Fightin around the world…

Anonymous

Instead I had to:

– Bill at least 7.5 hours a day of chargeable time;
– Live on CCFA funded files and answer for write offs even though rejecting a claim outright was disallowed;
– Do free training for clients at the drop of a hat and make up lost billable time;
– Take over distressed cases messed up by others and provide bad news to clients in my own name despite inheriting the problem;
– Find my own training due to budgetary restraints; and
– Use tied panel advocates regardless of whether they were the best person for the job.

Anonymous

Self-reporting surveys with self-definitions of harassment produce meaningless inflated outcomes. Which is what those organising them want.

Anonymous

An international survey proves nothing at all.

Anonymous

Frightening comment deletions on here when people detail their experiences of sexual harassment in both the paid and voluntary legal sector.

‘When you tear out a man’s tongue, you are not proving him a liar, you’re only telling the world that you fear what he might say.’

Sally from Accounts

Slide into my DMs

Anonymous

What details?

Law Lecturer

Just had a comment deleted about how I was going to hand out an e-mail address offering free support for harassment victims in the legal voluntary sector to my law students.

I’m now going to go a step further and will give it to colleagues working at other universities, my old university’s career department and friends who teach on the GDL and BPTC.

There really are people out there trying to silence harassment victims in the wake of #MeToo. Doesn’t stop people speaking out though, does it?

Anonymous

Speaking out about what?

Anonymous

Given that around 50% of ‘sexual harassment’ claims are false, the results of this survey ought to be taken with a pinch of salt.

Anonymous

Where is your source for that claim?

Anonymous

Analysis of reported cases and allegations, together with cases I am aware of. A sight more reliable sources than those underpinning this survey.

Anonymous

In other words, you are gaslighting as you have no sources.

Funny how lawyers from all over the world who have never met each other are all reporting the same thing.

Anonymous

In other words you don’t know what gaslighting means and you’ve just made a false accusation. Kind of proves the point.

You’ve been told the sources, one of which is this report.

Nothing funny about it – most of the lawyers saying they have been sexually harassed in answer to this survey haven’t been, and the majority of people are rightly sceptical about self-reporting surveys of this type.

Anonymous

66% of statistics on the internet are accurate.

This includes my comment.

Anonymous

Your comment wasn’t accurate, but thanks for demonstrating that the survey results are a load of rubbish.

Anonymous

These surveys are designed to get as many people as possible to claim to have been ‘sexually harassed’ in the knowledge thar some people are gullible enough to believe them.

Anonymous

Mass dishonesty in the hope of achieving what exactly???

How strange to live with absolutely no empathy or regard for others.

Anonymous

The hope of artificially inflating the level of ‘sexual harassment’ to create an atmosphere where women feel downtrodden and angry as part of an agenda and to create jobs for some people.

This seems quite obvious – not sure how it relates to ‘no empathy or regards for others’ – that just sounds like (yet) another false accusation.

Anonymous

So which person or group exactly do you think controls this ‘agenda’ to create jobs? Name them.

This getting funny now. I sincerely hope neither you, your daughter, wife or sister experiences having a phone thrown at their head whilst they work for a living.

Anonymous

The people responsible for surveys such as this.

I doubt you, your father, brother, husband or son would find it amusing to be falsely accused of ‘sexual harassment’.

Throwing a phone at someone’s head (if it happened), is not sexual, and can happen to males or females.

Anonymous

You have absolutely no objective evidence that women, en-mass and as part of a global ‘agenda’ with someone else in control, make up most allegations of sexual harassment.

I find it very weird that you could hold on to a belief that there is absolutely zero evidence for outside of your own convictions. Remember, that’s one opinion and not a ‘false allegation’.

Women aren’t the enemy. Your belief that they magically control your career progression/earning potential is.

Anonymous

Yet you blindly believe this survey with no evidence or even knowledge of the details of the allegations.

My evidence is existence of surveys such as this.

I didn’t say women were the enemy – that’s another false allegation.

Anonymous

Atrocious straw-man jump with “women en-mass”, which we will take as meaning en masse. Sad really. The point is there are campaigners, often obsessive in personality, who use these pointless self-certifying surveys to push their agendas and the professions do not have the guts to stand up to them and say “your numbers are bollocks”. These numbers and this survey is meaningless bollocks.

Anonymous

I’m sexually harassed 100% of the time and am owed £100m and promotion to partner. Anyone who says otherwise is a gaslighter.

Anonymous

When does that ever happen? They turf people out with ‘our professional relationship has broken down’ excuse and leave people are too tired to fight back.

Name one woman who has been promoted to partnership directly after a complaint for sexual harassment. I dare you.

Anonymous

Some of the respondents to this survey will have been hoping for promotion by exagerating the scale of sexual harassment. But the survey is anonomysed, so we don’t know their names.

Name one women who has made a false claim of ‘sexual harassment’. Dare you.

Anonymous

I have empathy for the women who have been duped into making false claims of ‘sexual harassment’ for the purposes of this survey.

Anonymous

However many false accusations of sexual harassment there may be, there will always be a vast number of incidents that go unreported.

I don’t know why there should be any difficulty in accepting that sexual harassment is a widespread problem. People don’t question the prevalence of other misconduct like bullying or nepotism, for example.

You only have to look at all the pathetic ‘alpha male’ comments that get made on Legal Cheek to see how many maladjusted young men there are in the law or trying to be in it.

(Before all the frothers start up with accusations of feminazis and other crap, I write as a completely unwoke but normal and sensible man.)

Anonymous

There are also a vast amount of false accusations (many women agree with this), more than for bullying or nepotism, as we can see from the comments section.

Surveys like this take advantage of gullible young women.

Anonymous

You’re just making this up as you go along.

You have no evidence of a ‘vast amount’ of false accusations or that many women agree with that dubious claim. Personally, I think what you say about women’s agreement to it is horse shit.

What is said in the LC comments section is not evidence of anything other than the attitudes of the posters.

Anonymous

I think you’re not really understanding how these things work – its for the people making accusations to provide evidence, not the people saying the accusations are false. You blindly believe these accusations without any evidence, therefore it is right to question your judgement.

Many, if not most, women believe that there are a large amount of false accusations, some of which can be seen in the comments. As you say, false accusations are merely the attitudes of the accusers and not evidence that the accusations are true.

I feel sorry for the gullible women duped into making false or exaggerated claims in this survey, and for the real victims, whose experiences are being buried underneath this chaff.

Anonymous

That makes no sense.

Accusations aren’t false until they’re proven true. They’re false when proven untrue.

Accusations that are never proved or disproved remain accusations.

To say that there are ‘vast amounts’ of knowingly untrue accusations is inherently implausible. It supposes some sort of widespread impulse among women to tell lies. As though the default position is to treat a woman as a liar unless, unusually, her account can be shown to be true.

Why do you think women would go about wasting their time making up stories about men harassing them?

Are you unable to accept that women are sensible normal humans? Perhaps you think they’re all scheming liars out to get you. Have you had some bad experiences with women?

Anonymous

If an accusation is questioned, it is for the person making it to prove it to be true. Until then it should be regarded as not true, i.e. false.

Unfortunately there are an absolutely vast amount of false ‘sexual harassment’ allegations due to lies, exaggeration, people who think they’ve been ‘sexually harassed’ but haven’t, people who have been duped into making false accusations, etc., especially in self reporting surveys like this. You have provided not one shred of evidence that any of the accusations in this survey are true. That must be your first step, not attacking people who ask for proof or question obviously flawed data.

I’ve had bad experiences with the women (and men) making false accusations in this survey and elsewhere, but don’t ever assume only women make or encourage false accusations – do you have something against women to say that?

Anonymous

This is now silly.

Unproven does not equal false. A false accusation is one that is knowingly untrue, a lie.

As for the rest of what you say, the only sensible way to understand it is that you believe most accusations of all misconduct are false, whoever makes them.

The notion of women being ‘duped’ by surveys is especially weird: as if surveys are some powerful trigger for false memories among female lawyers.

Anonymous

A false accusation is one which is not true, whether deliberate or not. This is part of the problem – a lot if people, you included, don’t even know what a false allegation is.

I don’t say most allegations of misconduct are false , I say many accusations of ‘sexual harassment’ are, that includes the ones in this survey.

There’s nothing difficult to understand about the motivations of the survey – use vulnerable, unhappy and/or angry women to project a desired outcome. Its those people I feel sorry for, and the real victims whose stories are hidden amongst the dross.

Anonymous

In mental health awareness week I have sympathy for males seeing this survey and the way it isn’t adequately questioned.

Anonymous

A false accusation is one which is not true, whether deliberate or not. This is part of the problem – a lot if people, you included, don’t even know what a false allegation is.

I don’t say most allegations of misconduct are false , I say many accusations of ‘sexual harassment’ are, that includes the ones in this survey.

There’s nothing difficult to understand about the motivations of the survey – use vulnerable, unhappy and/or angry women to project a desired outcome. Its those people I feel sorry for, and the real victims whose stories are hidden amongst the dross.

Anonymous

Right, so you get mugged on the way home. You report it to the police but they are unable to find the person and tell you that they are closing their enquiries. You’ve made a false accusation have you?

Or suppose your neighbour threatens you. You complain to the police. But the neighbour denies it. The police decline to prosecute for lack of evidence. You are a false accuser?

Etc.

Ultimately this comes down to your perverse ‘misunderstanding’ of the difference between the law’s policy of presumption of innocence and the truth of facts.

Presumption of innocence is a principle necessary to regulate the relationship between the citizen and the state, as mediated by the law. It is not a scientific doctrine of truth.

Anonymous

If you claim to be mugged ir threatened, that claim isn’t true just because you say it is. If your claim is denied, what actually happened needs to be independently established. Until then, you’re claim isn’t true.

You still haven’t shown one of the claims of ‘sexual harassment’ in the survey to be true yet. Not a single one.

Anonymous

Nope, you still don’t get it. I hope you’re not a lawyer.

Anonymous

I get it just fine – you don’t want allegations looked at closely where you doubt they’ll stand up to scrutiny. You should hope I am a lawyer – if you are and I’m not the way you’ve been wiped the floor with here means you’re in thevwrong profession.

You still haven’t shown one of the claims of ‘sexual harassment’ in the survey to be true yet. Not a single one.

Anonymous

You haven’t wiped the floor with anyone.

All you’ve done is show yourself to be an embittered fool.

Anonymous

And yet you’re the one reduced to name-calling and false accusations.

You still haven’t shown one of the claims of ‘sexual harassment’ in the survey to be true yet. Not a single one.

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