One in three female attorneys has been sexually harassed at work while half have been bullied, a global survey bringing law firms into a #MeToo movement shows.
The International Bar Association report which based on the online responses of 6,980 attorneys from 135 countries found sexual harassment in the industry to be “common” and bullying to be “rife.”
Since the #MeToo movement kicked off two years ago, law firms have been hired to advise corporations on how to handle harassment allegations.
Attorneys needed to get their own hiring and workplace behavior in order because of the risk being called out for hypocrisy, the association president Horacio Bernardes Neto said of the survey.
Kieran Pender, the report’s author and an adviser for the association told Bloomberg news that he hoped the report will be a wake-up call for the profession.
It’s long been suspected by many people in the profession that bullying and harassment were widespread,” but it’s “quite shocking” to see the numbers, he said.
This is the latest episode in a movement that’s seen women around the world speak out about behavior ranging from inappropriate comments to rape and assault, in the wake of allegations of serial predation by movie mogul Harvey Weinstein, which he denies.
The poll was publicly available online and it’s possible that people who had experienced bullying and harassment were more likely to respond.
The association said it’s the largest-ever survey on bullying and sexual harassment in the legal industry, distributed to the bar members.
In a foreword to the document, Julia Gillard, the former Australian prime minister who now chairs the Global Institute for Women’s Leadership at King’s College London, said around the world, it will be lawyers who are at the forefront of cases that test the efficacy of current laws.
The legal profession can only step up to this role with integrity if it makes sure its own house is in order, she said.
In three-quarters of all sexual harassment cases, the incident is never reported, the report shows.
Christina Blacklaws, president of the Law Society, which represents attorneys in England and Wales said law firms “should examine their workplace culture and procedures for dealing with complaints.”
“As a profession which strives to uphold justice, the legal sector needs to be at the forefront of the fight against bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace,” said Christina.
The fact that many law firms are male-dominated with a hierarchical power structure may be part of the problem, according to the report.
One respondent said, “One of the senior partners offered to help me get a training contract, if I went to casinos with him and agreed to ‘get to know him better,” “I never reported it because it would have meant exclusion from the project. Nothing happens to the partners.”
Some men also said they had been harassed.
One, who worked at a U.K. barristers’ chambers, where trial lawyers are based said his supervisor often said she wanted to “f***” him and “any conversation would seem to have a sexual reference in it.”
One in three male lawyers surveyed has been bullied at work, and one in 14 has been sexually harassed, the IBA found. Nation and Agencies