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I considered crashing my car just to take a week off, says bullied junior lawyer

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Anyone who is ‘a bit different’ can become a target

A junior lawyer who was relentlessly bullied by her boss has revealed how she once considered deliberately crashing her car so she didn’t have to go into the office.

The young solicitor, using the pseudonym ‘Isabelle Fearne’, recalls how she once missed a colleague’s leaving party after her boss purposely gave her a “time-consuming” piece of research late on a Friday afternoon, the Guardian reports. Whilst this doesn’t seem an unusual request for a rookie to receive, Fearne claims that when she later told him the answer, her boss already knew it. “It was a complete waste of my time,” she says.

This, unfortunately, was just one of a number of examples of bullying that Fearne encountered during her time at the unnamed firm. In a further incident, she claims her boss told her to be in the office an hour before everyone else, but then didn’t turn up to let her in.

Describing the move as a “massive power play”, she reveals how things went from bad to worse, at one point even considering crashing her own car to avoid the bullying. The report continues:

“When he [eventually] got there he pulled me into a room, shut the blinds and barracked me [for using the internet too much]. It was absolute nonsense.”

Around that time Fearne considered crashing her car, “just to take a week off”.

Reflecting on her experience, Fearne, who has since moved firms, says that anyone who is “a bit different” can become a target for workplace bullying, including those who are older, overweight, quiet or don’t “ski”.

The shocking account comes just 24 hours after a global survey of nearly 7,000 legal professionals 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.

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94 Comments

Anonymous

That’s got high street firm written all over it

Anonymous

That’s so patronising. Bullying occurs at all firms, including elite ones. This is such an important discussion and your comment trivialises an important issue. Immature attitudes like yours are the symptom of the underlying snobbishness that makes it acceptable to bully people who are a bit different.

Anonymous

If it were a city firm, she wouldn’t be locked out. We keep the doors open 24/7 so we can bill, bill, bill!

Anonymous

Hardly. You’re just sitting around until a moderately more senior associate gives you permission to go home.

Anonymous

It’s more that I have to be on call for the email from a partner heading to bed with an urgent piece of work for the morning that could totally have been passed on several days ago when it first hit their inbox.

Anonymous

How do you record your ‘on call’ time?

Anonymous

At HSF they call it alone time…..

Anonymous

“That’s so patronising. Bullying occurs at all firms, including elite ones. This is such an important discussion and your comment trivialises an important issue. Immature attitudes like yours are the symptom of the underlying snobbishness that makes it acceptable to bully people who are a bit different.”

Translation: I’m really anti-bullying and I intend to prove that by bullying someone who dares to disagree with me.

Anonymous

There was no disagreement. It was pointing out a condescending attitude.

Anonymously

Of course its a high street firm. I mean the fact they have to let her in says it all.

I’d rather be a paralegal at a top firm then a trainee at a shitty high st firm.

Anonymous

You’re an arsehole who will neither be a paralegal or a trainee at any firm.

Anonymous

Why, so you can document review?

Anonymous

… and proofread, and draft board minutes.

JDP

And play the skin flute.

Anonymous

If there was a real bullying problem then:

1. There would be lots of evidence from HR to back this up
2. There would be lots of Tribunal evidence to back this up
3. Lawcare would get lots of calls (when we know it gets hardly any)

Instead, what we have is certain interested groups trying to pretend there is a bullying problem in order to secure economic and political advantage.

This sort of behavior is highly manipulative and, sadly, like bullying, incredibly difficult to stamp out entirely.

Anonymous

That’s simply not true. I know loads of people, especially women, who’ve experienced bullying and we just have to cover up why we left our jobs because we do actually want to work again!

Anonymous

Yeah, all those thousands of female CEOs and world leaders out there with their ‘economic and political advantage’ rubbing their hands together in glee.

They are out to get you. They plot everything in those single sex bathrooms to personally ensure you will never, ever become Partner. They are possibly planning that harassment accusation against you right now.

Please don’t ever have a daughter…

Anonymous

Validation of the root problem.

Anonymous

The misogynist is the one infantalising women.

emma

People do not complain, this is well evidenced.

You and attitudes like yours are part of tthe problem. ‘interested groups’ you racist and sexist.

Flairman

Are you being deliberately thick?

As someone has said, this has high street firm written all over it. A lot of high street firms don’t have any HR staff, or if they do then it’s somebody like the boss’s sister.

Secondly, do you really think the function of HR is to record instances of bullying? It isn’t. It’s to cover up bullying and to create a data trail leading to the lawful dismissal of an employee who makes accusations of bullying.

Anonymous

That’s exactly what HR does, even at magic circle law firms that offer MoneyLaw salaries.

Anonymous

Such corporate insanity is very common place. I was told once that I walk too fast, seem stressed out and that is not a look trainees should have. Instead, you should appear calm and internalise your stress, even if you’re under a lot of pressure.

There’s only a finite amount of such bonkers nonsense you can listen to. After a while you just mentally check out and stop caring.

Anonymous

It could be worse: you could be bullied constantly, while also having to wear a gas mask to the gents traps to avoid the ass fumes. Fucks sake what do these people eat

Poo troll

🎼Everybody poos…🎶

Except you, it seems.

DAC Beachcroft

You haven’t experienced anything until you’ve visited the Pensions floor and gone to the gents traps around 10.00am. Holy mother of god

Anonymous

I would say that just about everyone has been badly bullied in a law firm. It’s wrong and simply unacceptable.

How much would you love a twitter-storm “metoo” moment for law, which blows apart magic circle law firms / US partners? We all know who they are? Turfed out on their own at 45?

We need a different culture in law, job security, valuing staff, making sure that fewer bullies get into positions of authority

Anonymous

Agreed, and remembering that bullying is not only limited to one gender.

Anonymous

Brothers! Sisters!

Corporate greed must end!

VOTE CORBYN TO RENATIONALISE WATER, ENERGY, RAIL, POST AND FOR A GREEN JOBS REVOLUTION!!!!

WE NEED TO BE FREE FROM EXPLOITATION!

SOLIDARITY WITH PALESTINE! DOWN WITH METROPOLITAN ELITES!

VOTE LABOUR, FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW

Anonymous

HR works for the company to protect it and limit exposure. They are not your friends or on your side.

Anonymous

I worked for a firm (as a trainee solicitor) where the boss would consistently make power plays. He would come in three hours after the start of the working day and expect me to stay behind to assist him despite me being in an hour early. None of the work was time sensitive and could have waited.
I have had a stapler thrown at my head and was told that it was my fault (no idea how) that he had sent an email to the wrong person. I became depressed, woke up in the middle of the night with panic attacks and suffered the worst migraines of my life.
I fully relate to the story and I was so grateful that I had the opportunity to leave. I am now working at a fantastic firm which is wholly supportive.

Anonymous

It’s such a shame that the bully isn’t held accountable for their conduct and you had to leave the firm. So typical.

Anonymous

Thanks. To be honest it wasn’t worth reporting. As mentioned before HR are only there to protect the employer. If it helps it wasn’t just me that suffered. The manager refused to sign someone off as a solicitor until she agreed to work at the firm after qualifying and taking a pay cut! She had to threaten to involve the SRA before they finally agreed. Overall, although it was a horrible experience it has made me more aware of how to treat junior staff.

Anonymous

I’m glad you had such a mature response to a very unpleasant situation. I wish you all the best in your career!

Anonymous

Positive comments on LC seem so jarring. A bit like seeing the Queen have a dump.

Anonymous

Have an absolutely wonderful day!

Anonymous

Adult nappies help.

Seriously.

Biggest stress-reliever ever!

Anonymous

CC?

legin

Sounds like your average day at SPB. Some people here got bullied nonstop by swivel-eyed cretins they unfortunately had to call colleagues. A firm where decent people get the shaft and brown nosers thrive, avoid

Anonymous

Have you complained?

SPB Slavedriver

Shut up and get back to work slave!

Anonymous

I’m tired of this sort of pathetic moaning from the spineless. If firm management and hard work are not to your liking find somewhere else to work. “Oh I missed my friend’s leaving drinks, the horror!”

Anonymous

As someone who’s about to enter the profession, I must ask: How does one handle such a situation? Of course I suspect the answer will be “It depends on X, Y and Z” but I’d love some pointers, just in case.

Thanks!

Anonymous

My number one pointer would be not to enter the profession in the first place. It is toxic.

Anonymous

Drink. A lot.

Anonymous

Be robust on day 1.

Don’t be the bitch in your cohort.

Anonymous

If it’s an established bully they usually have a reputation, so being connected with your colleagues helps with intel to avoid working with the bully in the first place. If you nevertheless end up working with the bully, behave with professionalism, take care of yourself, do what you need to do, and once the transaction/case is done, move on. If they do anything that crosses your personal boundaries, assert yourself and make it very clear to the bully that their conduct is unacceptable. If that results in negative repercussions for your career, just move firms – it’s never worth sacrificing your self worth to assuage the entitlement complex of a bully. I echo the previous comments about HR being a waste of time, they’re often bullies themselves.

JDP

My advice to all incoming trainees is the same: grab your ankles and think of England!

Anonymous

It is depressing to watch the bullying in the comments of anyone who dares to question whether bullying really is a problem.

Anonymous

Who is the bully of the bullies? Or is the bullied the bullier? What if a bullied person bullies a bully into bullying a bully? Food for thought.

Anonymous

Or we could just, you know, be a bit nicer

Anonymous

Fuck off, prick.

Anonymous

Bunch of lefties lol

Anonymous

I was well aware of this issue before I entered the profession so on the first day of my training contract I knew I had to make an impact. It’s sink or swim isn’t it? Eat or be eaten. So during the introductory session I picked out the dweebiest, weakest-looking inductee and mercilessly ripped him all day. Everytime I made a jibe I’d nudge the biggest looking guy in the room and say ‘am I right?’ and invariably that dunderhead would agree that I was indeed right.

Why won't my comments publish?!

I worked as a paralegal in-house for a bank. The GC told me told me he would give me a training contract but that I would have to really show I wanted it. He pushed back my TC start date twice because I “wasn’t ready” despite him telling me the work I was doing, he didn’t get to do until he was 3PQE.

He said I had to “hold myself to a higher standard than everyone else working there because I was a lawyer”. In a place where the culture was that everyone worked 9-5, he asked me to be the first person there every day and the last person to leave every night, despite him leaving at 5pm every day.

He once bollocked me for leaving at 7pm to go swimming training for an upcoming triathlon. His response was that he had no life in his twenties and my entire life should be work at my age. I was told not to go out with friends in the week as work the next day is more important.

He told me to buy banking textbooks and would set me reading tasks of 100 pages over a weekend which he would give me exams on.

I used to get Sunday night fear every night of the week, fearing what nonsense he would give me the next day.

I eventually had enough of his bullying and called him out. Cue an enormous row and me leaving.

The last I heard he was off work with stress and had been for several months. I think he was a deeply unhappy man who was sad that he wasted a major part of his life at work and felt that because he did it, I should too.

Looking back I actually feel sorry for him. He had probably been bullied himself before becoming a bully.

Anonymous

The bullies I came across were insecure workaholics with no real talent. Because their ambition exceeded their native abilities, they sacrificed their health and relationships for law. Their power trips are the only source of emotional supply so anyone who works for them will be sucked dry and discarded for the next resource. Bullies don’t see you as a person, you’re just a resource to be used and replaced.

Anonymous

Yes. Look up ‘Narcissistic Supply’ and it’s easy to understand how it always comes down to the bully’s own inadequacies.

I think bullying is prevalent in the voluntary sector too because there’s always a ready supply of empathetic people to target. They are told to volunteer to boost their CV. Thus, the culture never changes because there’s always new people to target.

Easy to cover up too because people assume that lawyers or charity volunteers must necessarily be morally ‘upright’.

DICKSON POON

Did they have you play the skin flute?

Anonymous

No, we played hoop la.

Anonymous

Is coke common in the legal profession? 20 marks- give reasoning to support your answer

Anonymous

Pics or it didn’t happen.

Anonymous

When I did pupillage at a northern superset I was told that I should be seen to be the first into Chambers in the morning and the last to leave at night, assuming I wasn’t in some far-flung court.

Given some senior practitioners were night-owls this made for some very late leaving times.

I was also set very long and numerous pieces of legal research, often at short notice with a “next morning” deadline that required work into the early hours.

I was also told to knock on the doors of other members of Chambers and say I was available to assist them. Some were only too happy to dump large and time consuming tasks on me.

Thing is, this wasn’t bullying. It was, for the most part, preparation for what life would be like as a tenant in Chambers to see if I could hack it.

Anonymous

Northern superset: contradiction in terms.

Anonymous

Did you exchange your Chambers for another one?

Anonymous

Another day, another bunch of moans by snowflakes.

Anonymous

Yeah those snowflakes get so angry about all those foreigners, Brexit and how the world had ’gawn maaaaad’

Russell

When I worked in the City 30 years ago relentless bullying was the way they got rid of staff they didn’t want to keep. Departmental meetings would be held at which the targets would have work they had done publicly ridiculed by the partners. They would be spoken to with incredible rudeness by partners or simply stared at with no words spoken at all. I had to endure this and it left me very unwell for years.

Anon

So sorry to hear you were treated so poorly.

I was diagnosed with CPTSD haven’t been able to work in an office environment since experiencing bullying whilst volunteering for a charity. It was so bad, my Inn of Court kindly offered me pro bono help.

Make your life amazing Russell. You bet I did.

Anonymous

Russell makes an important point though – it is just too hard nowadays to fire underperformers, and HR get crazy if the deadwood in question are women, from a minority or claim to be disabled. If we could just fire people more easily then I suspect most of the complaints that happen in the workplace would fall away. The underperformers rarely know how crap they are too, and when they are not promoted they moan and moan until you send them scuttling off with an undeserved cheque and an NDA.

Anonymous

Richard Thexton is that you?

Previously a Pupil

When I was a pupil at a well-known criminal chambers, I was prepared for and accepted the crazy hours (I was in chambers from 8 am to 8 pm – unless I was working late) and all-nighters were not unusual. I did not go out socially throughout my pupillage as I always had work to take home and I was on call every Saturday. I accepted in my second six the difficult and high-pressure cases, often for vulnerable and difficult people, for shockingly poor pay. What made the experience so difficult for me was not the job – it was the racist, sexist and homophobic bullying by my pupil ‘master’. The job was what I wanted to pursue and I went in with my eyes open. It was the bullying (racial taunts, comments about my appearance, insults about “the gays”) that really wore me down.

Anonymous

Your pupil master sounds like a top bantz kinda bloke, shut up.

PUPIL MASTERBATER

The gays!!!

Anonymous

I knew this post was fiction when it said “a well-known criminal chambers”.

Anonymous

I would like to say that reading some of the comments on this page make me really sad. We are effectively condoning a ‘race to the bottom’ mentality of burning out. By calling people who cannot cope with sometimes horrible behaviour ‘snowflakes’ we are doing ourselves a huge disservice. As a profession, regardless of who people were treated in the past, we should strive to be better.

Anonymous

* how people not who people!

Anonymous

Do better then. It’s easy. Don’t just re-Tweet ‘Behind The Gown’, but call out bad behaviour if you see it happening right in front of you. End any culture of ‘favouritism’ whereby stalkers and verbal abusers are kept on because it’s seen as eccentric ‘quirks’.

Don’t kick people out with the excuse that the ‘professional relationship has broken down’ after they complain. Don’t have clueless BPTC students adjudicate bullying complaints, as one famous legal voluntary organisation used to.

Tell the new intake that you don’t care how many prizes they have at Cambridge, how well they speak or how good they are at the job. Tell them bullying will not be tolerated and they are 100% replaceable with someone who can respect others and uphold professional ethics.

Anonymous

That’s shocking. Considering some of BPTC students I’ve known, I wouldn’t want them anywhere near any harassment complaint. No chambers would have pupils put in charge of overseeing harassment complaints either.

Anonymous

But I really do care how many prizes they got at Cambridge, how they talk and how hard they work. So do my clients. These are law firms, not some PC “everyone gets prizes” nursery. If people want to set up a “hug a snowflake” firm they can. Good luck with making decent money with it.

Anonymous

I too contemplated crashing my car to get just one day off away from my former abusive supervising lawyer. However knowing her, she would have demanded that I walk to the office from the crash site. A horrible and oppressive working environment that I couldn’t have left fast enough.

Me Too, at Phreew

I see a certain charity is once more stifling free speech and investigative journalism by reporting comments from volunteers who detail experiencing sexual harassment and racism in the office.

They seem to be trying to cover up facts too about the money they spend on mediation.

Perhaps their time should be better spent kicking out bullies there rather than victimising volunteers?

We aren’t going to shut up anytime soon about the bullying.

Anonymous

Bang on. Too many SJWs and too few lawyers

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