IBA continues work to combat inappropriate behaviour in workplaces, one year on from Us Too?

Thursday 18 June 2020

On the first anniversary of the publication of its landmark report, Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession and the ensuing global campaign, the International Bar Association (IBA) has announced the next phase of work. Reaffirming its commitment to addressing inappropriate behaviour, the IBA will continue to build on insight gained from the global campaign and the momentum around efforts to address these issues. The next stage will comprise of three primary elements to establish a comprehensive online resource hub by late 2020:

  • a workplace best practice guide that will succinctly outline practical steps that workplaces of all shapes and sizes can take to better prevent and address bullying and sexual harassment. The guide will be supported by various resources to help workplaces implement the recommendations;
  • education tools to improve anti-harassment training, including a dedicated IBA-created online training module and potential virtual reality training. The first will be in collaboration with the College of Law, the latter is being explored with Osiris Labs, an immersive training provider; and

IBA President, Horacio Bernardes Neto said: ‘Bullying and sexual harassment have no place in the legal profession, or elsewhere. The response to our 2019 research, which highlighted pervasive levels of misconduct in legal workplaces across the globe, has been encouraging. The initial reaction of shock at the prevalence of such negative behavioural patterns in a profession founded on the highest ethical standards, is being replaced by determination to stamp them out. By working together, the new stage of this IBA campaign will further all efforts to achieve positive change.’

All materials will be freely available in multiple languages from the IBA. There will also be interactive online events, including a free webinar to discuss the Us Too? campaign on Wednesday 10 June from 1300 – 1415 BST. A presentation by the report’s author Kieran Pender, LPRU Senior Legal Advisor, will be followed by a panel discussion, featuring Jeroen Ouwehand, Clifford Chance Global Senior Partner; Sarah Gregory, Baker McKenzie Diversity & Inclusion Partner; and Gregory Vijayendran SC, Law Society of Singapore President; and Bárbara V Ramperti, Partner, Marval, O'Farrell & Mairal, Buenos Aires. Mr Bernardes and Sara Carnegie, Director IBA Legal Projects will provide opening remarks. Click here to register.

On 15 May 2019, the LPRU published Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession. The report drew on a survey undertaken by the IBA and Acritas (part of Thomson Reuters) of almost 7,000 legal professionals across 135 countries. It found that one in two female and one in three male respondents had been bullied at work; and one in three female and one in 14 male respondents had been sexually harassed.

In the 12 months following the report launch, the IBA undertook an unprecedented global engagement campaign – with events in 30 cities across six continents – to raise awareness and facilitate dialogue. The report was also translated into Spanish, while a summary was made available in 14 languages.

‘The campaign took us from Auckland to Budapest, Dar es Salaam to Doha, Hong Kong to Lisbon, Mexico City to Paris, Rome to São Paulo, Sydney to Washington DC and more,’ said Mr Pender. ‘In addition to over 50 public events, we met bilaterally with hundreds of law firms, in-house legal teams, judiciaries, bars and law societies, regulators, civil societies, and governmental and intergovernmental organisations. We shared our findings and listened – seeking to understand how workplaces and other stakeholders are achieving change.’

The Us Too? report has had a great impact, including:

  • numerous IBA member bar associations and law societies have launched initiatives to address bullying and sexual harassment. One association, for example, has undertaken its own survey to inform its approach, while another launched a dedicated app to enable its members to report incidents;
  • major domestic and international law firms have reviewed, revised and reinvigorated their efforts to tackle inappropriate behaviour. One firm, among the world’s largest, hosted seminars about the report at a number of its offices, and another rolled out a major internal communications campaign; and
  • collaborations have been formed with the European Union, International Labour Organization, World Bank, United Nations and the International Criminal Court to promote the findings and raise awareness.

Baroness Helena Kennedy QC, Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute said: ‘For too long inappropriate behaviour has been excused. The Us Too? report has shed a bright light on the issue and raised the collective consciousness of the legal profession. The tremendous momentum towards making environments safe and colleagues feel secure and supported at work is being further built on with tools that will bring meaningful and lasting change for the benefit of all.’

With the first phase of the campaign now over, Mr Pender acknowledged its many supporters:‘I am grateful to the thousands of individuals around the world who variously undertook the survey, read the report, attended events, invited us to their workplaces and shared their insights. I am also appreciative of the IBA’s many member bars, law societies and group member law firms who have been steadfast supporters of this campaign. Every single individual within this important profession has a role to play in achieving safe and supportive legal workplaces. Together, we can do better.’


Notes to the Editor

  1. To download the report Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession,and for information on the Us Too? campaign, click here. www.ibanet.org/bullying-and-sexual-harassment
  2. Click here for free registration to the free webinar on the Us Too? campaign on Wednesday 10 June 2020.
  3. The International Bar Association (IBA), the global voice of the legal profession, is the foremost organisation for international legal practitioners, bar associations and law societies. Established in 1947, shortly after the creation of the United Nations, it was born out of the conviction that an organisation made up of the world's bar associations could contribute to global stability and peace through the administration of justice. The International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute (IBAHRI), an autonomous and financially independent entity, works to promote, protect and enforce human rights under a just rule of law, and to preserve the independence of the judiciary and the legal profession worldwide.

For further information please contact:

Romana St. Matthew - Daniel
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International Bar Association
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London EC4A 4AD

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IBA website page link for this news release:
Short link: tinyurl.com/y74l8urv