A Summary of “Us Too?  Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession”

The report is based on survey results from 6980 respondents from 135 countries in six different languages.

Headline points

Sexual harassment and bullying were found to be significant issues for men and women.

“Targets” do not report in 75% of sexual harassment cases and 57% of bullying cases mainly due to the status of the perpetrator and fear of repercussions.

70% rated the response to bullying to be insufficient or negligible.

67% rated the response to sexual harassment to be insufficient or negligible.

 

Bullying Sexual Harassment
1 in 2 women

1 in 3 men

 

1 in 3 women

1 in 14 men

In the workplace In the workplace and at social events, conferences and during travel

 

Most commonly perpetrated by line manager or supervisor

 

Most commonly perpetrated by a non-supervisor senior colleague
Disproportionately affects young workers

 

Disproportionately affects young workers

 

90% bullied more than once

 

84% sexually harassed more than once
Bullying by social media affects young people most Technology-based harassment on the rise
40% always or sometimes reported

 

21% always or sometimes reported
Most reported at large law firms Most reported at small law firms

 

70% felt the response to reporting was insufficient or negligible 66% felt the response to reporting was insufficient or negligible

 

75% of perpetrators not sanctioned 75% of perpetrators not sanctioned

 

Profound negative personal impact including suicidal thoughts reported

 

Profound negative personal impact including suicidal thoughts reported
More than half of targets left or considered leaving the workplace

 

One third left or considered leaving the workplace (50% + of under 35s)

 

One in ten considered leaving the profession

 

 

Methodology

Two-thirds of respondents were women and one third men.  Overall it was assumed that the ratio of women to men in the profession globally is 1:1, although there are clearly regional differences.  Respondents came from different types of legal workplace with most from law firms (73%) and least from the judiciary (3%).  The majority of respondents were under 40 with a total of three-quarters under 50.  Personal characteristics other than gender were not recorded due to data protection restrictions.  The report notes that other characteristics such as, sexual preference, ethnicity, parenting responsibilities and physical ability will have impact on sexual harassment and bullying.

The perception paradox

Jurisdictions in which awareness is likely to be highest also report the highest levels of abuse, not perhaps because abuse is relatively higher in these places, but because it is recognised more readily.  The research addresses this paradox in terms of cultural bias by considering results in the light of known levels of gender equality.  Norway, Australia and Russia rank respectively high, average and low in terms of gender equality index scores.  However, Russian respondents reported similar rates of bullying and lower rates of sexual harassment than to those of Norway.

Bullying (p32 – 49)

There are moral and business imperatives to address bullying.  The impact on individuals and organisations is profound with lives damaged, effectiveness at work impaired and staff turn-over increased.

Bullying is “rampant” and the legal profession has a “chronic” bullying problem.  It is most prevalent in large law firms and government legal departments.  It is rarely reported.  More than half of targets of bullying have left or considered leaving their work.

Half of female respondents reported being bullied and one in three men.

High levels of bullying reported in government workplaces (69%) may be due to the perception paradox, with policy initiatives and training contributing to awareness and thus reporting.    The size of the law firm has impact on reported bullying; firms with more than 100 partners had higher rates of bullying at 45.6% with the lowest being for 11 – 50 partner firms at 35%, so not a huge over-all range.

Oceania and Africa had the highest rates of bullying with women significantly more likely to be bullied in both.

Bullying affects young legal professionals most with 32.8% of respondents under 25s experiencing bullying.  The age profile of targets decreases, suggesting that the older you are the less likely you are to be bullied.  This supports the connection between hierarchy based on seniority and bullying.

Partners are slightly less likely to be bullied than other functions.  This may be because they are protected by seniority.  It is possible that targets tend not to head for the top, so the experience of bullying may be under-represented at that level.

Types of bullying

The types of bullying most reported were:

  • Ridicule or demeaning language (57%)
  • Overbearing supervision including unproductive criticism (55.4%)
  • Being given too much or too little work (47.3%)

(NB.  People could report more than one type of bullying, hence totals over 100%)

Who bullies?  When and where?

Line managers and supervisors were the highest reported group of bullies at 60.5%.  Again, this supports the association of hierarchy and bullying.

90% of respondents had been bullied more than once with the vast majority of bullying happening in the workplace.

Reporting & response

Bullying is rarely reported.  The most common reasons for non-reporting was the profile or status of the perpetrator and fear of repercussions.  57.3% of respondents said that they never reported bullying.  Large firms have higher reporting rates possibly due to the provision of policies and procedures.  87% reported within their organisation with 3% reporting to a regulatory body or the police.

Less than 10% of respondents felt the response to reporting was good or excellent.

70% thought it was insufficient or negligible.

More than half of bullied respondents left their workplace.

Sexual harassment (p49 – 67)

Sexual harassment is “alarmingly common-place” and is having a “considerable negative impact” on the legal profession.  It affects women disproportionately, although men are affected.  The perpetrator is most often a non-supervisor senior colleague.  Abuse happens at work, at social and off-site events.  One third of respondents reported leaving or considering leaving their job; one in ten considered leaving the profession.

Government legal departments have the highest rates of reported sexual harassment (35%) with men twice as likely to report sexual harassment than average.  Law firms have the lowest rate (20%).  The size of the firm had no impact on reported levels of sexual harassment.  There appears to be a correlation between bullying and sexual harassment levels.

Where, who and what?

Oceania, Africa and America had the highest prevalence of sexual harassment at around the mid 40% level in each.  Non-line manager colleagues (54%) and colleagues of the same seniority (36.6%) are the most likely perpetrators, although young people are most often sexually harassed by more senior colleagues.  In North America clients are responsible for relatively more sexual harassment than elsewhere.

Sexual harassment is reported most from young people.  A shocking 16% of women under 25 reported sexual harassment with 35% 25 – 35 year olds being affected.  Prevalence is roughly equal across functions.

Sexual, sexist and suggestive comments were the most likely type of sexual harassment accounting for a stunning 67.9% of reported sexual harassment.

66.8% reported inappropriate physical touching and sexual propositions.

Incidents were reported to be rarely isolated, although it was less likely to be a concerted course of action than bullying. 84% reported sexual harassment happened more than once.  The workplace is the most likely place for abuse to happen.

Reporting

“Sexual harassment is chronically underreported”

75% of respondents did not report sexual harassment

Reporting rates are highest at small firms, in contrast to bullying in which most reporting is at large firms.  Reporting is through internal channels.  It is noted that the severity of the sexual harassment reported did affect the likelihood that it be reported.

The reasons most often given for non-reporting were status and seniority of the perpetrator and fear of repercussions.  This last was most prevalent in the judiciary.

Qualitative responses indicated that targets were concerned about the punishment for perpetrators being disproportionate.

Response

25% felt the response to reporting was sufficient or better

66% felt it was insufficient or negligible

75% of perpetrators were not sanctioned.  In more than half of cases the situation was unchanged or deteriorated after reporting.

Impact

One third of sexually harassed respondents have left or are considering leaving their workplace; 1 in 10 have left or are considering leaving the profession.  Young women are most likely to leave or consider leaving the profession (50% of women 25 – 29 years old).

You can download the full report here:

https://www.ibanet.org/bullying-and-sexual-harassment.aspx

I do declare! Let’s make declaring “competence” to practise a source of pleasure & pride

This week solicitors and their employers will be signing off on their Declaration of Competence* for the year.  How will that feel, I wonder?  Will it be an administrative task or pleasure to reflect on a year of continuous learning?  If we take technical expertise as given, what would be on a solicitor’s wish list of “competence”?  At the end of the year, looking back, what is it that solicitors would like to be able to say they enjoyed learning to do differently at work?

That word “enjoyed” is important.  I’m interested in people engaging with learning and enjoying the possibilities that brings.  There are so many brilliant lawyers capable of so much in terms of client service and commitment to the Rule of Law.  What excites me is bringing capability and possibility together; that’s when learning rocks!

There are some smart individuals and some big firms doing really interesting things, particularly around the use of technology in delivering legal services.  Lots of people want to be involved in this story and are unsure of where to start.  Unfortunately, what can happen is a debilitating sense of uncertainty which makes the gap between capability and what feels possible widen, rather than shrink.

 

In that situation we end up with sameness; same people, same practice.  If that is what everyone is comfortable with and feels is a long-term option, then that’s fine.  The difficult question is; will clients think its fine?  If they are navigating changing and uncertain times, if they are working on their own capability and creating commercial possibilities, might they expect their legal advisers not only to do the same, but to help them meet their challenges?  Could lawyers be leading the way?  I can’t see why not, if their business purpose is to serve client need.  And that’s where the wish list of competencies can play powerful role.

Competencies are a regulatory requirement.  More importantly they are a way of describing what “good” looks like in terms of a range of different capabilities.  Crucially, you can only define “good” in relation to your purpose.  Not everyone has to be competent at everything.  There is discretion.

Perhaps it is more useful to think of it as a declaration that each individual is equipped to play their part and make their contribution to the future of the business.  So what do you wish for?

*What is the “Declaration of Competence”?

The Declaration provides affirmation jointly by the solicitor and their employer to state that each solicitor has learned continuously throughout the year in order that they may provide a “proper standard of service”.  The declaration is:

“I have reflected on my practice and addressed any identified learning and development needs.”

In turn, the SRA will issue them a Practising Certificate.  Only if there is an allegation of incompetence will the regulator seek to turn over the stone marked “learning” and see what evidence of lies there.

http://www.sra.org.uk/solicitors/cpd/tool-kit/resources/annual-declaration.page

 

 

Learning Culture & Compliance – Blog 1

I spoke to a group of Compliance Officers, Managing Partners and Finance Directors from the legal sector yesterday on the topic of “how a learning culture supports compliance”.  My talk was about the legal sector, but the issues raised are relevant to any business which needs to preserve a technical edge and also move with the times.  I have captured my thoughts in a series of short blogs.

Blog 1

Learning is not merely a matter of compliance, but it helps!

Making a business case for learning at work brings us up against some fundamental questions:  Why learn?  Is it merely to satisfy a regulatory requirement?  Is learning solely to support expertise or is it for something else?  Do wider business skills require development?

Establishing purpose

All of these questions lead back to one thing, business purpose.  Being clear about what the business is trying to achieve is a pre-requisite to developing strategic plans of any kind, including learning strategy.  Once you have clarity about purpose then it is possible to make an assessment of the knowledge & skills people will demonstrate when that purpose is realised.  Are they the same as the ones they have now?   It is unlikely that they will be purely based on technical expertise; expertise is “a given”.

Muddling through

In professional service firms it can be fairly easy to establish wide-ranging learning needs, because historically there has been a tendency to promote people to managerial and leadership roles on the basis of technical expertise or even time-served.  Often those promotions have been made without preparation or development support.  And that approach has, broadly speaking,  been adequate to-date, but the gaps and tensions it creates are becoming increasingly obvious.

Expecting people to muddle through their responsibilities as leaders and managers in a business is possible when there is plenty of work about and plenty of people to do the work.  However, when there is less work, or when that work needs to be done more efficiently by fewer people, the system, and the people within it, becomes strained.  Add to that dynamic a demand to deliver big intangibles such as “client-focussed service”, issues of “retention” or “succession planning” and the old approach is found wanting.

Using compliance to get “buy-in”

So we do not need to rely on compliance to make a compelling business case for investment in learning, but considering the barriers that exist, it gives the argument leverage.  The truth is that a lot of firms want the benefits of great knowledge and skills – in terms of delivering things like client service standards, efficiency and profitability and retaining staff – but when push comes to shove, the organisation really values and recognises fee-earning.  When making the case for investing time and money in learning, compliance provides a regulatory rationale for a change in approach.  It can be the foundation on which the steps towards effective learning strategy and business transformation can be made.

French ban on phones in school – is it too late to manage the march of digital technology?

Recently the French Minister for Education, Jean-Michel Blanquer, announced that from September 2018 secondary school children under the age of 15 will not be allowed to have smartphones with them in school at any time, not even at break or at lunch-times.  Reading responses to this ban prompted me to think about the French perspective and this post captures those thoughts.

Is this about attention spans and focus or is it something else?  The French have a fierce history of protecting their identity as a secular, intellectual republic (massive generalisations aside, I make no comment about whether they achieve this – but it is my impression of how they like to see themselves).  Perhaps they perceive their unique identity as being under threat in some way.

The huge optimism which existed about the use of digital technology to democratise our lives has given way, under a wave of populism, to fear that it is merely another way of driving consumerism.  We cannot ignore the fact that children are being exploited as online consumers any more than we can ignore the fact that digital technology provides great opportunities.

For some reason humans do tend to end up making everything about power. Where that power is shared through some medium, like art, science, sex etc. the outcomes are perceived as positive. Where power is centralised with the objective of gaining control, whether of a market, behaviour or mind-set, then the outcomes are often ugly.

Which is holding sway now?  The bewildering pace of change means that the constant lure of the internet our children experience can be seen as a massive experiment.  Are things going to turn out well for the “click bait” generation?  Whilst positive outcomes are possible, to-date the digital age has facilitated the rise of extremism and provided a mechanism for terror.  Are the French are trying to draw a line in the sand at some level?

When I talk about the impact of digital technology with clients I like to put it in historical context. The printing press arrived in the UK in the 1470s – the first book was produced in 1473. In 1870 the Education Act was passed which made primary school education mandatory for all. Such was the degree of social & political control it took four hundred years to achieve universal entitlement to literacy.  In comparison, the reach, speed and extent of the impact of technology is staggering.  It is unlike anything we have seen before.

Braudel argued that History is not the product of human endeavour.  History is shaped first by geology and geography, he argued, then by economic cycles lasting many decades or centuries, and finally by individuals who dance on pin-heads and think themselves important.  I wonder where he would put digital technology in that story.  In the second bracket, I suspect, although the pace of change drives it towards the immediate individualistic level.  Old orthodoxies, even the historical theories by which we understand our past and our progress, are falling away in the face of the rapidity of change.

Do we just let this play out and see what happens or is it too late?  Digital technology exists and it is in the hands of big corporations who intend to make it pay, even more so now that net-neutrality appears doomed.  It was ever thus.  How do we make the most of the opportunities for learning whilst preserving a space in which children are not prey to the next click or image?  I can understand the French idea that smartphones are not essential in school, but ensuring that future generations are discerning, critical thinkers is absolutely crucial.

Stand-out moments from the LawNet Conference 2017

Yet again Jane Armytage and I had loads of fun exhibiting with Athena Professional at the brilliant LawNet conference which ran last Friday, 10th November 2017.  The calibre of the speakers was outstanding.  I felt it was a day that raised awareness; there is a burning platform and the its starting to get warm under foot!

Many excellent things were said.  Twice I practically jumping out of my seat and cheering and once I was just fascinated to watch the audience open up and engage.  Here are my three stand-out moments:

#1

Keith Coats made it plain that CONTINUOUS LEARNING is where it’s at.  Oh Yes! Music to my ears!   I was inwardly jumping up and down.  Why?  Because, there is a huge opportunity to leap-frog over the sheep-dip training mentality and jump straight into equipping people to embrace change, to drive it, because they are permitted to think, to be creative and try out new ways of working.

Coats’ rationale was compelling; exponential change is only just getting under-way.  In other words if you think the world is complex and fast-moving now, you ain’t nothin’ yet!  The pace of change will become so ferocious that the ability to respond, to be adaptable and nimble, is going to be more important than robust strategic thinking and detailed planning, “You cannot plan your way into exponential change – plans give the illusion of control”.  Ouch!  That’s a powerful message for a room full of people who are used to being in complete control.

Coats prayed in aid the case of Netflix who sold billions of DVDs in the 1990s before recruiting a couple of former Amazon execs who told them the future was streaming film.  The business turned on a sixpence.  Within months they stopped making DVDs and began streaming.  It just so happens that Netflix was the topic of conversation in my house recently.  At one point both my teenagers chimed, “Mum! Everybody’s got a Netflix account!”

Surely the idea of ditching a brilliant business model must have seemed ridiculous to Netflix at first. However, Keith Coats related the words of Jim Dator, “Any useful idea about the future should appear to be ridiculous”, although the rider to that is, “not all ridiculous ideas are useful”!! That idea was captured in the cartoon record of the day created by Chris Shipton..

Are we willing to learn, to take risks and engage with ideas which might seem ridiculous?

#2

To my absolute joy, THE RULE OF LAW got a mention from Sophie Adams-Bhatti.  She asked the audience to raise their hands if they thought it was important.  Most did.  Earlier in the day Keith Coats had concluded by suggesting that people need hope and the world needs a shared sense of a higher purpose.  Well, well!  The legal sector does not need to look very far for its higher purpose.  As Adams-Bhatti observed, the Rule of Law is a crucial pillar of a democratic society.  Amen to that.

#3

Dr Brian Marien drew us into the subject of “Emotional Literacy” in the afternoon.  It was fascinating to see this room of senior lawyers given permission to think about their feelings and behaviours.  It has been my repeated experience that established professional people feel deeply concerned, vulnerable, even ashamed, about revealing that they do not know everything, that there are some skills they have not mastered, or that they or their colleagues demonstrate some behaviours of which they are not proud.  And yet I am certain that acknowledging the truth of that sort of sentiment is the starting point for so much that is so necessary to the profession.

If you would like to see the Twitter feed of the day go to #LNConf for lots of quotes and observations.

It is worth saying that the event is beautifully run by Helen Hamilton-Shaw and her team.  The venue, Heythrop Park in Oxfordshire is magnificent.  The whole day has such friendly, good vibe, its real pleasure to be there.  This was our fourth year of exhibiting.  I think we’ve worked with about a dozen LawNet firms now, so there are lots of people it is good to see and to catch up with, and plenty more to get to know.

I should also thank Chris Marston for giving Athena Professional a name-check during his introduction for our experiential approach to learning about performance management.  It is one aspect of continuous learning which is important and there is so much opportunity for more!

 

Reflection & cpd compliance

What is reflective practice?

Reflective practice is a way of capturing how much learning an individual feels they have achieved and working out what is left to do.

Why does reflective practice matter?

  1. The SRA have said they will be looking for evidence of reflective practice if they have cause to investigate an individual or a firm’s competence  AND
  2. It is an important part of the learning process AND
  3. It promotes individual responsibility for learning

So reflective practice matters to compliance with new cpd regs?

Yes, although it would be wrong to think that reflective practice alone will be enough to satisfy the new regs.

How do I get my colleagues on board with reflective practice?

If they are up for using this as an opportunity to make the most of cpd, you could engage them in building reflection into all that you do around performance and cpd.

If you need a big stick, you could remind them that the SRA rejected the idea of re-accreditation, so they might like to go along with this much less onerous approach.

If people are still in mourning for the cpd hour, you could state the obvious and point out that its is a goner (and by the way only 8% of firms responded to LETR consultation about cpd).  The argument is lost and this is the new reality.

Is reflective practice a Good Thing?

A lot of lawyers are used to didactic learning; learning by being told.  By its nature, many aspects of learning at work are experiential; about learning by doing.   Thinking about what you learn and why is half the battle towards actually using new learning in the course of a working day.  So, yes, reflective practice, done well, is a Good Thing.

Kolb’s learning cycle describes the learning process:

KolbA good reflective log will capture all the elements of this process and help the individual to consider how much they have actually taken on board and are able to use.  For some templates go to RESOURCES

If we do reflection well, is that enough for compliance?

Probably.  The SRA has provided examples which suggest that it would do, but the process has not been tested through inspection yet (and it only will be if other problems arise first).

If you do want to use this as an opportunity to review why and how you do cpd consider:

  • The business purpose of learning
  • How learning can be introduced, transferred to the work-place, re-enforced, developed, supported and recognised.
  • What evidence you will need to demonstrate the success of learning (and the fact it was worth the time and money).

Next steps

Introduce reflective practice for specific events first, well before the deadline for change under the new regs comes into force.

Use a structured approach.

Start as you mean to go on and make it the learner’s job to complete reflective or other learning logs from the outset.  Use peer reporting to encourage accountability (and discussion of learning?) and/or set-up routine meetings with line managers to discuss performance and learning.

All of this makes much more sense if you begin by looking at what your business needs and work out a learning strategy which delivers on those needs.

Stategy, cpd, outcomes.pptx