England: Nearly half of barristers see bullying or discrimination at work

England: Nearly half of barristers see bullying or discrimination at work

Nearly half of barristers in England and Wales have experienced or witnessed bullying, harassment and discrimination in their legal work, according to new research by the Bar Council.

In the most recent survey, 44 per cent of respondents said they had experienced or observed this behaviour while working either in-person or online – an increase from 38 per cent in 2021 and 31 per cent in 2017.

Those who are more at risk of experiencing bullying, harassment and discrimination are women, people of colour, younger and more junior members of the bar. Barristers with caring responsibilities or a disability also reported being disproportionately affected.

Those who are complained about are generally those in a position of power or influence and include judges, more senior barristers, senior clerks, and practice managers.

The main reason given for not reporting incidents of bullying, harassment or discrimination is fear of repercussions.

In response to the findings, the Bar Council has committed to address inappropriate and abusive behaviour by commissioning a review, established by spring 2024 and to report by spring 2025, that will consider and identify solutions, specifically to identify prevention and mitigating strategies.

Nick Vineall KC, chair of the Bar Council, said: “The bar should not tolerate any bullying, harassment or discriminatory behaviour. Wellbeing, retention and progression of barristers are all affected by the way we are treated by colleagues and the Bar Council is committed to addressing the problems highlighted by the data.”

Sam Townend KC, chair-elect of the Bar Council, added: “The Bar Council identifies bullying, harassment and discrimination as a systemic issue and we hope the judiciary, clerks, chambers professionals and the Inns will work together with us to facilitate meaningful change. We want everyone at the bar to thrive and enjoy a fulfilling career.”

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