Dignity Matters Project

Thank you again to everyone who completed the Dignity Matters survey, which took place from 6 May to 18 June 2021.

Your participation has contributed to future meaningful change in the solicitors’ profession. We are delighted to report that, together, we achieved a robust sample size of 1,565. 

The resulting Dignity Matters report is now available. It may, however, contain information that readers find distressing. If this is the case, please see below “supports” section which signposts to important services and information.

Background

At the Law Society’s 2020 Annual General Meeting, the Law Society was mandated by its members to:

"Commission a profession-wide survey in similar terms to that carried out by the International Bar Association (IBA) on bullying and sexual harassment; and to implement recommendations of the IBA Report titled “Us Too? Bullying and Sexual Harassment in the Legal Profession."

Following this mandate, the Law Society appointed independent external consultant, Crowe, to deliver the Dignity Matters survey to enquire about solicitors and trainees’ experience of work environments in Ireland, specifically as it relates to bullying, harassment, and sexual harassment. 

The resulting report, available for you to read in full here, is a landmark milestone in the Society’s commitment to improving professional wellbeing, gender equality, diversity and inclusion in the solicitors’ profession. It sheds light on the nature, prevalence and impact of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment as experienced by members of the Law Society and Law School trainees. It also provides a suite of recommendations for the Law Society and the solicitors’ profession to prevent, respond to, and tackle these types of behaviours.

Unacceptable behaviour

The significance of this report cannot be underestimated. The findings are unequivocal. Unacceptably high levels of bullying, harassment and sexual harassment have been reported. These revelations, while deeply troubling, are a call to action to reaffirm our commitment to eradicating these negative behaviours that have no place in our profession. We must now work collaboratively with our members to stamp out bullying, harassment and sexual harassment.

Below are some key findings from the Dignity Matters report. We encourage you to take a closer look at the full report’s findings and recommendations in your own time.

  • One in three women (2.9) and one in two men (2.3) experienced bullying.
  • One in two women (2.3) and one in nine men (8.6) experienced harassment.
  • One in two women and one in eight men (8.3) experienced sexual harassment.
  • The workplace is the most common location where these negative behaviours are experienced.
  • A consistent majority did not report their experience of bullying (73%) or harassment (71%), with this figure rising to 91% for experiences of sexual harassment.
  • In so far as respondents were aware, reporting resulted in no sanctions for the reported party in 88% of bullying incidences, 89% of harassment and 78% sexual harassment.
  • The profile/status of the reported party was the most prominent reason provided by respondents for not reporting bullying (70%), harassment (76%) and sexual harassment (49%).
  • Experience of bullying (46%), harassment (50%) or sexual harassment (21%) has contributed to a respondent leaving their workplace.
  • Almost three quarters (73%) of respondents to the survey indicated that their workplace did not conduct training relating to bullying/harassment or sexual harassment.

Your ideas

The Dignity Matters survey asked for your ideas about how to tackle and challenge bullying, harassment and sexual harassment in the profession, and we listened. The results from this landmark survey have helped Crowe to develop recommendations to support a culture of dignity, respect and inclusivity in our profession. The Law Society is already proactively addressing some of the issues raised in the report through a range of trainee and member training, workshops, charters, and signposting to resources.

However, over the coming year, we will focus more explicitly on these matters, continue to implement report recommendations and engage in a deeper analysis of the report for further positive change. As we make progress, we will continue to learn from other sectors also tackling these types of behaviours. Unfortunately, this is not unique to the solicitors’ profession.

Time for change

The solicitors’ profession is predicated on the highest ethical standards and we know that the majority of solicitors uphold these standards in the course of their work. However, we now have the evidence that worrying levels of harmful behaviours are also present in the profession and that we need to address this issue collectively. We will work with our members, and firms, to eliminate unacceptable behaviour that does not align with the values of integrity, trust and respect that are the foundation of our profession.

We must all work for positive change. We must all prioritise this.

Supports

If you have found reading the report or any of the above information distressing, you can call LegalMind at any time on freephone number 1800 81 41 77 to speak to a psychotherapist or counsellor. You can also send an SMS/WhatsApp to LegalMind and a case manager will text you back, as soon as possible, that day. Text ‘Hi’ to 035387 369 0010 (standard rates apply).

In addition to the above, solicitors may access further independent resources here or register for the LegalMind portal (information for the portal is available on www.lawsociety.ie/legalmind).

Contact us

If you would like to find out more about the Dignity Matters Project or any of the wellbeing supports made available to you through the Professional Wellbeing Project, you can contact Julie Breen, Professional Wellbeing Executive.