This is embarrassing for our industry.
One in three female attorneys has been sexually harassed at work, and half have been bullied, according to a global survey that brings law firms into a #MeToo movement that started in Hollywood and has engulfed much of the corporate world.
The International Bar Association survey — based on the online responses of 6,980 attorneys from 135 countries — found sexual harassment in the industry is “common” and bullying is “rife.”
Now this was a survey, not a full blown research study, so it is likely that the actual numbers are skewed because people who’d been bullied or sexually harassed would be more likely to respond. That being said, no one is questioning that this goes on, frequently. Two quick points.
1. 1 in three male attorneys responding had been bullied as well. (1 in 14 had been sexually harassed). Bullying goes on in the legal industry everywhere. I have no doubt about that. And I’m not sure of what to do about it, frankly. I am sure that being a lawyer is an attractive career option for people who like to argue and bully others. By it’s nature it’s going to attract the kind of people who love to argue, and find fault, and it’s going to teach them to continue doing that. It shouldn’t cross over into bullying but often it does, and to get rid of it is going to require some very serious penalties for anyone who crosses that line. We aren’t there.
2. The responses came from lawyers. Imagine how high these numbers would be among the staff. After all we are mostly referred to by the dehumanizing term “non-lawyer” to start with. Do you think it’s possible that lawyers who are likely already bullying and/or sexually harassing other lawyers would behave even worse toward their staff? Would a survey of legal staff members find anyone who hasn’t been bullied at least once? How many female staff members have been harassed? How much of it goes unreported because staff typically have no power in the legal setting?
The legal house needs cleaning. Who is willing to do it?