The subject of sexual harassment, bullying and abuse of power by (predominantly) male bosses is dominating the media. I await a more open discussion about this issue as it applies to law firms, and more importantly a fundamental change of culture and behaviour.
Bullying within the legal profession is rarely challenged or even discussed, I suspect, because of an understandable fear on the part of victims and witnesses of damage to their careers or further bullying were they to speak out.
I am a partner at a top-100 London law firm and have both experienced and seen bullying. I have no protection or remedy other than to invoke the provisions of my firm’s LLP agreement. But to do so would be to place my career at the firm in the hands of other partners who are either equally vulnerable to the bullying or who collude with the bullies. That is a risk that I, and I suspect most people in my position, am unwilling to take. In reality, I do not have even the minimum protections of an employee. I suffer in silence or leave.
The profession needs to acknowledge that the problem of bullying within it is rife, and that it exists at the highest level. It needs to re-examine the traditional partnership structure and accept that too often it does not protect junior and female members. Until it does so, this is a profession unfit for purpose.
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