A new report highlights increasing harassment and bullying for women at the bar.
Women barristers are being hampered by the existence of a culture of fear around reporting bullying/harassment and gender stereotyping, according to a new report.
The Association of Women Barristers’ report, In the age of ‘us too’? Moving towards a zero-tolerance attitude to harassment and bullying in the bar, came about after a survey last year found that harassment and bullying at the Bar were not only prevalent, but were on the rise.
The findings led the Association to set up a roundtable discussion group which brought together a number of experienced practitioners, many of whom were leaders in their fields and/or had held positions of leadership at the Bar. The aim of the roundtable was to consider how harassment and bullying was affecting the profession and to consider what could be done to assist those who had been bullied or harassed and to seek to establish a zero tolerance attitude to this kind of behaviour in future.
The roundtable dialogue indicated that there were a number of particular issues and attitudes prevailing at the Bar which were of concern because they created an atmosphere that permitted harassment and bullying to thrive. Recurring issues of particular concern to practitioners included the following:
– Power imbalances creating vulnerability, for example, during pupillage and with instructing solicitors.
– Unequal treatment around the distribution of work and inequitable briefing – for example over-looking
women barristers for leading-briefs.
– Inappropriate behaviour in robing rooms and bar messes.
– Barristers being bullied by other barristers and a lack of awareness of the effects of bullying by some
– Poor facilities available for women and non-binary people at court centres.
– The existence of a culture of fear around reporting bullying/harassment and gender stereotyping.
The report makes several recommendations. It calls for: