Time’s up for bullies in the legal profession

James Wolffe QC

Ambitious targets to tackle bullying and drive diversity have been announced at a summit celebrating 100 years of women in law.

In a speech the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe QC, praised the steps taken by the legal profession to increase inclusivity over the past century, while calling on the profession to adopt a zero-tolerance approach to bullying in the workplace.

Other targets included introducing family-friendly flexible working, as part of a range of measures towards achieving a 50/50 gender balance in senior positions in firms by 2028.

A 2018 report by the Law Society of Scotland found that a fifth of women reported experiencing bullying while working in a legal practice over the past five years.

Women make up the majority of legal professionals in Scotland, though only 30 per cent hold a partnership position and the pay gap stands at 23 per cent.

Gordon Jackson QC, Dean of the Faculty of Advocates, said: “Bullying and harassment have absolutely no place in the profession, and the Faculty fully endorses zero tolerance of it.

“All advocates are self-employed and free to make their own preferred working arrangements, but the Faculty tries to do all we can to assist members seeking flexibility in their working life.

“We are conscious of a gender imbalance in our membership and are taking positive steps to encourage as many women as possible to consider a career at the bar.”

Community safety minister Ash Denham welcomed the call for action.

She said: “Scotland is fortunate to have a legal profession with expertise, compassion and many brilliant minds. Anything which legal professionals or new entrants to the sector could perceive as a barrier to entry or progression is unacceptable, which is why I am calling on the sector to act.

“Achieving these targets will be a challenge, but one I am confident that the legal profession can achieve. By working collaboratively, we will create a legal climate that is ambitious, dynamic and adaptable, and fulfils the ambitions I believe our young people should have the chance to achieve.”

Lorna Jack, chief executive of the Law Society, said: “We have been seen as a leader in the gender equality debate by other legal bodies around the globe.

“Great progress has been made, including a reduction in the gender pay gap over the last five years, but there is more to do. We welcome the Scottish government’s support for our zero-tolerance approach to bullying.

“We strive for a modern, diverse and inclusive legal profession which allows people from all backgrounds to have equal opportunity to thrive in their careers.”

Tags: bullying

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