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Reports of sexual misconduct at law firms hit all-time high in wake of #MeToo

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Complaints to regulator more than double in five years, figures show

Figures released by the solicitors’ watchdog show reports of sexual misconduct in the legal profession have more than doubled in five years.

Complaints of inappropriate behaviour to the Solicitors Regulation Authority jumped from 25 in 2014-15 to 63 in 2018-19, a rise of 152%, according to a response to a freedom of information request submitted by London law firm GQ|Littler.

“The increases coincide with the growth of the #MeToo movement, and likely reflect broader cultural changes arising from that,” said Sophie Vanhegan, a partner at the employment law specialist firm. “Although there has been progress among UK law firms, such as restrictions on alcohol consumption at work events, these figures show that there is still progress to be made.”

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The City’s big players have been cracking down on misbehaviour in recent months. Slaughter and May announced it was banning work-subsidised ski trips after a female lawyer accused a male colleague of sexual harassment on a firm skiing holiday, while Linklaters confirmed the introduction of a new sober supervisor scheme, which sees partners assign a member of staff to remain booze-free and supervise at work events where alcohol is being served.

Last year fellow magic circle player Freshfields made national headlines after the high-profile resignation of partner Ryan Beckwith over a sexual misconduct finding. The firm went on to set up a conduct committee and introduce new rules that could see partners fined up to 20% of their profit share for misbehaviour.

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68 Comments

Anonymous

Will be interesting to see how many of them are true.

Anonymous

A tiny number of complaints. Shows how small an issue this in the profession. The inflated pseudo-surveys of the MeToo extremists have to be seen for the nonsense that they are. The complaints that have surfaced in the press recently do seem to be matters that have been dealt with in a very heavy handed manner by the regulators.

Anonymous

Firms are cracking down on allegations of misbehaviour, not on misbehaviour itself. They’re two different things.

Anon

There rarely is a good reason for female associates to lie about such matters.

Women who make complaints about those above them on the corporate hierarchy are almost always forced to resign. Often, the working environment becomes intolerable and the firm quietly sides with the partner/senior associate.

Generally, the lawyers dismissed by the firms are repeat offenders. They are merely being weeded out.

Anonymous

There’s plenty of reason to lie (money, jealousy, etc).

Complainants can be treated badly, but there are a huge amount of false or exaggerated claims.

Many of those accused are innocent, far from being weeded out.

Anon

Not really. There’s a real fear that complaining will lead to ‘blacklisting’, hence preventing female associates from readily securing well-paid roles in law firms.

Also, firms don’t readily sign a cheque to silence a complainant. That’s akin to admitting liability, and they don’t want to do that!

Anon

Such fears are generally unfounded.

Firms make payoffs all the time, it doesn’t mean the allegations are true!

A

Payoffs are usually there to end the negative PR risk of bad claims and hassle of disposing of them. But nowadays they take the cash, sign the NDA and then moan about the NDA. No NDA to moolah.

Anon

“Such fears are generally unfounded”. Where is the evidence for this?

Anon

There isn’t any evidence – of people complaining if sexual harassment being subjected to blacklisting, that is.

Anon

But where is the evidence of the fears being unfounded?

Anonymous

It’s for those expressing fear to show that the fear is founded on evidence.

K

I was pushed out of a legal charity after reporting sexual harassment and going through mediation. This was four years after I first reported sickening behaviour.

They were meant to write me a professional reference for pupillage and paralegal applications, but staff shouted at me on the phone everytime I asked for one.

My legal career was finished. I love my little family more than anything – getting out was ultimately the right thing, but I was treated worse than an animal in the process.

Why lie? They kick the women out for ‘causing a fuss’, not the men.

Anonymous

So you say, time and time again, but unless you are going to do something about it, move on and find another place to moan.

Anon

An acquaintance of mine went through a similar situation. She complained about the behaviour of a senior colleague and was simply starved of work until she was forced to leave the firm.

Her lawyers actually advised her not to bring a claim at the employment tribunal, as women who ‘rocked the boat’ too much developed a poor reputation and were considered unemployable.

They had seen this time and time again amongst female lawyers.

K

I ran a marathon to fundraise for the charity.

Then they kicked me out. They never kicked out the harasser, as he took out so many cases. He wanted nothing to do with any of them once he started earning double the amount the staff did.

It breaks you. I’m so sorry for what your friend went through too. It doesn’t seem to stop no matter how many women come forward.

The charity went through three CEOs in one year as the place was so dysfunctional. They run one of the biggest marketing campaigns towards law students and have a constant conveyor belt of fresh volunteers to put up with bullying.

It’s a scandal that volunteers don’t have any legal rights. Perhaps this charity would cease to exist if volunteers could approach the courts detailing their abuse.

Anonymous

I don’t believe a lawyer would have told your friend that.

Anonymous

Volunteers do have legal rights just (sadly) not employment rights.

My advice would be to try to avoid making the issue into a gender one as you’ll lose sympathy that way.

anon

I am an employment lawyer and have advised just that to a potential claimant: namely, she had a good claim in law but it could have scuppered her chances of future employment, so I advised her not to bring the claim.

Anonymous

No you’re not and no you didn’t.

Anon

No you ain’t and no you didn’t.

anonymous

I am an employment Silk and have also raised in advice the need to consider the potential commercial consequences of bringing a claim on employment opportunities; in one case, on particular facts, I advised a potential claimant, who otherwise had a good claim, not to bring an action for this reason.

Sorry to disappoint you law students but, in the real world, things are different.

Anon

No you’re not and no you didn’t.

Times Up

Looks like a lot of lawyers here are running scared of what they’ve done finally coming out into the open.

Funny how these same people never accuse anyone else (not prisoners, altar boys, corporate clients, whistleblowing medics or anyone else in society) of mass deception.

Could all these people coming forward more likely than not be telling the truth?

Anonymous

Given the high proportion of false accusations in sexual harassment cases, unlikely.

Legal Cheek's First CyberNat #SNP #IndyRef2020 #VoteYes2020 #LetsGetCampaigning #ImWithNicola #FreeScotland

What a load of Right wing nonsense

Anonymous

Why right-wing?

Legal Cheek's First CyberNat #SNP #IndyRef2020 #VoteYes2020 #LetsGetCampaigning #ImWithNicola #FreeScotland

I meant the poster at 1247

Anonymous

I know, but why right wing?

Legal Cheek's First CyberNat #SNP #IndyRef2020 #VoteYes2020 #LetsGetCampaigning #ImWithNicola #FreeScotland

Cause only a right wing person would tell tall tales about women inventing sexual assault allegations. It happens, but it’s very very rare and it’s not an answer to the major problems that exist.

Anonymous

Unfortunately it’s a huge issue and very much part of the major problems which exist.

Still not sure where right wing comes into it.

sceptic

“….high proportion of false accusations in sexual harassment cases.”

Evidence, please?

Anonymous

It’s for the accusers to provide, please.

Anon

So you don’t have any. I didn’t think so, but thanks for confirming that your statement that there are a “….high proportion of false accusations in sexual harassment cases” is bollocks. Back to your exams.

James

When you leave university and join the real world, you will learn that you have to back up what you say.

Anonymous

It’s for the accusers to provide evidence given the vast amount of false accusations.

Anon

Still don’t have any evidence, do you? The Emperor has no clothes. Back to your revision.

Anonymous

I don’t need evidence, you do.

Anonymous

Quite, James – innocent until proven guilty.

Losing the will to live

Either you are an intellectually dishonest troll or you are spectacularly stupid. Nobody suggests that those who accuse others of impropriety have the burden of proving their claim. What is now in issue is something different. You have alleged that there are a high number of false sexual claims, and you are being asked to provide evidence for that allegation. (Hint: you might look at statistics showing the number of people found guilty of perjury in the context of sexual cases.) By failing or refusing to provide that evidence, you are losing credibility.

Anon

James isn’t stupid, he’s right – innocent until proven guilty.

James

I was saying that you have to back up your statement that there are a large number of false claims. Where is your evidence for this?

Anon

Anonymous Jan 20 2020 2:18pm made a silly comment and is now trying to dig himself out of the hole he has created; in doing so, he is making himself look all the more foolish.

James

No, I meant those making accusations of sexual harassment need to provide evidence.

Anon

Back to your exam revision, James. Or your LLB from Warwick will be even more worthless.

One day, when you have finished your training contract at a provincial firm, you will doubtless end up instructing a member of the Bar, who will tell you all about shifting burdens of proof. You have made a counter allegation, and you must prove it.

Anon

It’s for those making accusations of sexual harassment to provide evidence. Everyone knows that!

Anon

I am not a victim of harassment, but the lack of cognitive empathy on this page is nauseating.

Anon

Especially for those accused.

Anonymous

The Beckwith case was completely outside the remit of the SRA and regarded a private matter.

The suspicion is that he was targeted because of his gender.

Anon

Men must be found to be sacrificed at the altar of Metooism. If men cannot be found to have met the threshold of misconduct, then the threshold must be lowered so sacrifices can be made.

Legal Cheek's First CyberNat #SNP #IndyRef2020 #VoteYes2020 #LetsGetCampaigning #ImWithNicola #FreeScotland

It is great that more is being done to crack down on unacceptably high levels of sexual abuse. It’s endemic, as is sexism. And bigotry too.

Anonymous

Your comment being a case in point.

Tam

There is nothing worse than a soft English shitebag pretending to be Scottish. You deserve a good firm Glasgow kiss. Now fuck off, Sassenach.

Anon

Oh so toe-curling.

Bring back the cane!

This is pointed towards the Bar more than the solicitors. Where are the HR processes in a Chambers?

Yes, law firms fail at time, but they have a better structure in place.

Holborn

There’s no HR in legal charities either.

Student volunteers are sexually harassed and then as they are volunteers, they aren’t protected by law and cannot have a judge hear evidence of the abuse they suffer.

They are told if they don’t have legal voluntary experience, no chambers will look at them.

It’s horribly exploitative and not one single barrister has ever spoken up for them.

Anonymous

What was the evidence?

Anonymous

The last thing we need is more HR involvement!

JDP

Snitches.

Anonymous

You are a hard cnut. Not.

You couldn’t stitch a hole in your trousers.

Honest HR manager

Remember the golden rule of modern office culture, its only sexual harrasment if your older than 40, below 5.11 and fat and balding. Other than that its flirting. Remember the key criteria for sexual assualt is an UNWANTED sexual advance. Its entirely subjective and up to the woman to decide after “evaluating” the looks of the person who made the advance. Nevertheless, the above criteria applies in most cases.

K

The man I reported for shouting verbal abuse at me in front of clients and sending a journalist to stalk me was 6ft, 24 years old and earning £60,000 as a pupil. He had dyspraxia too, but I strongly think that was a cover for being within the Autistic spectrum.

I really couldn’t care what someone looks like. Kindly don’t have a journalist try to find out who I slept with at uni and stop talking about it with others in the office.

Yes, what is and isn’t normal behaviour really needs to be spelt out to some people in their 20s.

Anon

What do you mean by ‘stalk’ you?

Go get him!

And what happened to the idiot? This could well be more of a criminal matter if you really have been stalked in the way criminal law would sanction it.

Anonymous

We’d need to know what happened first.

Anonymous

S&M haven’t announced they’re ending with ski trips after ‘sexual harassment’ allegation – it was claimed they did, but they’ve declined to comment. It probably wasn’t anything to do with the allegation (if there was one).

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