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03 December 2018 at 09:43 BST

New research and leading barrister warn profession over 'silence'

In separate initiatives, study reports over third of female lawyers harassed at work, leading barrister warns over silence by profession.

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One of every two female lawyers and three of every 10 men are bullied at work, according to findings released from legal research firm Acritas.

Little 'significant impact’

Of the total 35 percent, 23 percent of women attorneys at law firms and working in-house received sexually suggestive comments, while 17 percent reported being subjected to inappropriate physical contact. Harassment has included suggestive comments and inappropriate contact, says Acritas. The findings support other research that the legal industry is still too complacent when it comes to stopping misconduct at work that harms mostly women. However, the findings also reveal 7 percent of male attorneys also report being sexually harassed. Findings also reveal 77 percent of female harassment victims and 88 percent of men never reported the incident, for fear of repercussions from their seniors. Acritas reports there is little evidence anti-harassment policies alone have had a significant impact on the problem, though appropriate training as had some impact, reducing incidents of harassment in the past year by some 40 percent.

Silence warning

Acritas studied data gathered from about 8,700 lawyers. These included 2,000 senior in-house counsel, 1,700 “higher-performing” law firm attorneys, and 5,000 lawyers who responded to an ongoing web survey issued by the International Bar Association. Acritas say the harassment and bullying figures came specifically from the IBA survey. Professor Jo Delahunty QC of 4PB, a leading barrister specialising in cases concerned with families and children, said in a public lecture at Gresham College, London that sexual harassment at the bar is ‘rife’, and the profession’s response is counter-productive. She said the lack of progress means that barristers need to ‘agitate’ for a very different approach to dealing with complaints, and change the bar’s culture. Professor Delahunty warned ‘the silence of the profession about it runs the risk of condemning it by inaction.’

 
   
 
 
 

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