City Law School Lecturer co-authors major report on harassment and bullying
City Law School Lecturer, Lynne Townley, is co-author, along with Her Honour Judge Kaly Kaul QC, of a major report on bullying and harassment at the Bar.
Lynne was involved in her capacity as Chair of the Association of Women Barristers (AWB).
The report details the findings of a roundtable meeting of women barristers in leadership roles at the Bar who met at the Bar Council at the end of 2018. Lynne chaired the roundtable and was lead-author on the report, which details key recommendations for change.
Rife in legal profession
The catalyst for the roundtable was the Bar Council’s Working Lives Survey findings in June 2018, indicating that harassment and bullying were not only prevalent at the Bar, but were on the rise.
A recent survey undertaken by the International Bar Association also found that bullying and sexual harassment were rife in the legal profession internationally.
The report considers how harassment and bullying affects the profession. The report goes on to make recommendations about what could be done to assist those who have fallen victim to such behaviours.
A number of issues were of particular concern to Barristers, namely:
- The existence of power imbalances creating vulnerability, eg during pupillage and with instructing solicitors;
- Unequal treatment around the distribution of work;
- Inappropriate behaviour in robing rooms and Bar Messes;
- Barristers being bullied by other barristers and a lack of awareness of the effects of bullying amongst some barristers;
- The existence of a culture of fear around reporting bullying/harassment and gender stereotyping.
The report goes on to suggest a number of key indicators for change, including: taking steps to change the kind of attitudes and dialogue that allow inappropriate behaviour to flourish; the introduction of better codes of practice and policies; specialist training, and making available long-term support for those who have experienced/reported incidents of harassment and/or bullying.
The report's launch has been timed to coincide with the Bar Council’s release of an artificial intelligence reporting tool, ‘Talk to Spot’. The Bar Council has partnered with Spot.com, to support members of the profession who are victims of, or witnesses to , discrimination, harassment or bullying – either by other members of the profession or by solicitors, judges or others.
Spot is a web-based application and it is hoped that it will prompt barristers to record meaningful and pertinent information about their experience. No one (not even the Spot team or the Bar Council) will see what the barrister discusses with Spot unless they decide to submit a report (and even then it can be anonymous).
The AWB will be working closely with the Bar Council in the coming months to promote and help build confidence in the use of the ‘Talk to Spot’ tool.
Read the full report.