This week is Anti-Bullying week. For this, and other, reasons it is a good time to repeat advice about dealing with bullying at work, in the legal profession in particular.  Firstly useful observations from the lawyers on Twitter, secondly reviews and advice on the issue from around the world.


A topic that I know many people have been touched by – one tip: Talk to a colleague or even your oppo. It really can help to gain insight or even just let off steam.

From an anonymous (but senior) member of the profession

“I was bullied horribly at a former chambers. I was made ill through it and would have left the Bar. I was saved by moving chambers but if I hadn’t confided in a friend who told me to move, and that I had value, I would not have had the confidence to even apply elsewhere. I was so ground down I couldn’t physically go into chambers, and I genuinely thought there was nothing I could do but change career. I would never have believed I could be affected by bullying, as I’m fairly robust and usually popular, and I had never experienced anything like it before. It came out of nowhere, it seemed, and the people you simply don’t expect it of get caught up in it. All I can say is that no one is immune, and no one knows how much it affects them until it happens. Thank you for raising it.”

If you see someone being bullied you can help without getting senior people involved and risking your own career. Just distraction. Support. Interrupting. Standing too close to harassers. They can all help.

Ensure your appraisal has objective measures of success and that they’re under your control Note things you’re told to do in writing so people can’t move the goalposts and email to bully / boss to confirm In serious cases keep independent records

Try to work out why they’re doing it. Micromanagers mostly don’t trust people, for example. Turn the tables and believe you’re the better person but don’t do nothing.

I actually just this morning had a run in with an office bully who made me leave the job. Office bullies typically have management status and act as goalies as if stopping progress of any kind were their soul purpose for living. I’m accepting my freedom and moving on.

When newly qualified-ish I was bullied by my boss. I went to my boss’ boss and complained. Words were exchanged between boss and boss’ boss and day after I returned from compassionate leave from death of my father I was let go. Have soldiered on ever since and won’t ever give up.

I let everyone know I’m a third degree black belt. I hardly ever get any trouble…

1 shld never elevate a bully anywhere at anytime! Isolation rather than pandering 2 them encourages… In a world where you have no idea of a person’s struggles, making their lives worse is wrong – a bully won’t face up 2 their behaviour if folk make them feel special! Timely?

The  working group has reps from circuits, inns and SBAs for barristers (and chambers staff) to talk to. Details on our website:

Very helpful – my advice is to ignore them and seek advice from trusted colleagues. The nature of the Bar means that bullies will not succeed in the long run.

an interesting topic to consider as an Employment Solicitor. As a mature trainee I was the victim of bullying which I resolved by facing them down. It’s essential senior staff/members are aware of bullying. Strict adherence to grievance and disciplinary policies is essential.

Signs to look for . Sick days on Monday or after a Bank Holiday. Obvious changes in character, such as a change in levels of communication. Deterioration in standards of work. Self isolation. It is a desperate thing to be a victim of bullying.

I actually mention this briefly in today’s blog post. Systemic bullying in previous firm. My only real advice is to recognise your own talent and get the hell out of there. They can only exist for so long if all the talent leaves.

I’m one of the examples tweeted by  . Sometimes (and not everyone will agree with me) it can also just be one of those occasions when you walk away and make a success of a new challenge. I did both – and consequently got one over the bully!

I don’t disagree. Moving on may be the best idea. There is another example where the person felt ground down to the point of quitting the Bar. The support of one person gave him/her the confidence to move on rather than quit. If you are the person who offers that support…

You could be the difference between that person quitting the profession or not. You could be the difference between your organisation losing talent or not.

One of the problems  had even running an article was rC66 of  Handbook which imposes a mandatory reporting obligation, which made giving examples of incidents problematic. We have run pieces but  highlighted problems of a well-intentioned rule possibly making it hard to bring problems into the open rather than helping solve the problem. This was in part the start of the process described in  and now there are individuals exempted from rC66 to enable confidential reporting/discussion/seeking guidance. On the  there is a helpline – help@westerncircuit.co.uk, and a web page . I imagine other circuits have similar resources in place and I hope they are well publicised but the problem is still that having a problem and then chatting to a friend or trusted senior member of chambers can leave both potentially in breach of cR66. I’m not sure  has struck the right balance with mandatory reporting


The International Bar Association ” New IBA report calls time on ‘endemic’ bullying and sexual harassment in the legal profession”

This was a global survey.

  • one in two women and one in three men have experienced bullying in the workplace;
  • one in three women and one in 14 men have been sexually harassed;
  • in 57 per cent of bullying cases, incidents were not reported, with the figure rising to 75 per cent for episodes of sexual harassment;
  • there is considerable adverse impact, with 65 per cent of bullied practitioners having left or considered leaving their workplace as a result;
  • workplaces are not doing enough to prevent or adequately respond to misconduct, with policies regarding bullying and sexual harassment present in only 53 per cent of workplaces; and
  • just one in five workplaces have conducted training in recognising and reporting problems in these areas.


There is a Wikipedia entry Bullying in the legal profession

Bullying in the legal profession is believed to be more common than in some other professions. It is believed that its adversarial, hierarchical tradition contributes towards this.[1] Women, trainees and solicitors who have been qualified for five years or less are more impacted, as are ethnic minority lawyers and lesbian, gay and bisexual lawyers.[2]
Half of women lawyers and one in three men who took part in a study by the Law Council of Australia (LCA) reported they had been bullied or intimidated in the workplace.[3] The Law Council of Australia has found that women face significant levels of discrimination, with one of the study’s key figures telling Lawyers Weekly the profession is a “men’s only club”.[4]
According to former High Court judge Michael Kirby, the rudeness of judges trickles down to senior lawyers who then vent their frustrations on more junior staff, thus creating a cycle of bullying and stress that is rife within the legal profession.[5]”


The Wikipedia entry has some useful links. I have concentrated on those that give practical advice on preventing bullying and dealing with bullying when it occurs.