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Almost half of all lawyers have been bullied at work and one in four have been sexually harassed, according to initial results from a survey conducted by the International Bar Association (IBA).

The Association’s Legal Policy and Research Unit (LPRU) surveyed 5,000 lawyers from around the world as part of its Bullying and Harassment in the Legal Profession project that began in July. The LRPU released high-level results in October, which found that 43 per cent of lawyers had been bullied, and 25 per cent had been sexually harassed.

“The preliminary survey results indicating a high prevalence of bullying and sexual harassment in our profession is very worrying,” said Sarah Hutchinson, Co-Chair of the IBA Diversity Council and International Managing Director of US Bar exam course provider BARBRI.

“As a profession predicated on the highest ethical standards, there is no place in the legal sector for bullying and sexual harassment. Increasingly, lawyers are being asked to advise other sectors how to address such misconduct – we risk hypocrisy if we do not address these issues internally.”

The incidence of bullying and harassment was higher for female victims – one in two women lawyers had experienced bullying and one in three had been sexually harassed at work, compared to one in three and one in 15 respectively for men. Meanwhile, perpetrators went unsanctioned – 76 per cent of the time for bullying situations, and 73 per cent of the time in sexual harassment cases.

In 62 per cent of cases, the bullying contributed to the victim leaving or intending to leave their workplace.

The LPRU report questioned whether anti-bullying and sexual harassment policies and training were working, given the extent of the bad behaviour revealed by the data.

“It appears that training has more impact than policies, reducing instances of bullying and harassment by line managers in particular,” the report said. “The main barriers to reporting sexual harassment appear to remain even after training.” The report also noted that countries like Australia and the UK reported sexual harassment and bullying in greater numbers compared to Russia, Norway and Latvia. It contended this could be for several reasons, including that lawyers in countries where policies and training are more common may be more likely to report bullying or harassment.

The survey closed on 28 October 2018 and the LPRU will release detailed results soon.