Bullying and sexual harassment ‘rife in the legal profession’

Bullying and sexual harassment is “rife in the legal profession”, according to a new study which surveyed nearly 7,000 legal professionals from 135 countries.

The International Bar Association (IBA) and international law firm Herbert Smith Freehills today launched the Us Too? – Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession report, which details the findings of the largest-ever global survey of its kind.

Around half of women and a third of men who responded to the survey said they had been bullied in connection with their employment.

A third of women said they had been sexually harassed in a workplace context, as had one in 14 men.

In the UK and Ireland, more than 45 per cent of total respondents had experienced bullying. In Ireland, more than 13 per cent of respondents had experienced sexual harassment, rising to more than 21 per cent in the UK.

The report also found “chronic underreporting of incidents”, with 57 per cent of bullying cases and 75 per cent of sexual harassment cases going unreported for reasoning including the profile of the alleged perpetrator and the target’s fear of repercussion.

The report includes ten recommendations to assist legal workplaces and the profession as a whole in addressing these issues, underpinned by the survey data, secondary research and consultation with stakeholders.

Horacio Bernardes Neto, president of the International Bar Association, said: “I implore the legal profession to heed this report’s recommendations. If the law is to remain in proper standing with the global community, its practitioners must be of good character.

“Addressing the widespread bullying and sexual harassment among us is an important step in safeguarding the long-term vitality of this essential profession.”

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