gunnercooke in the Times on law firm culture

May 15, 2019

Co-founder of gunnercooke, Sarah Goulbourne, was interviewed by The Times following the IBA report on bullying and sexual harassment.  Sarah said ‘the report’s findings were no surprise and were the result of entrenched behaviours that stemmed from the antiquated and hierarchical structure of law firms. “The law needs to change and leaders need to transform the toxic cultures of their organisations”’.

Sarah’s full commentary on the IBA findings below: 

The International Bar Association has released a report into bullying and sexual harassment in the legal profession globally.  The findings reveal extremely high levels of both behaviours, highlighting the UK as displaying some of the worst levels in the world.

Sarah Goulbourne, a leading figure in the promotion of women’s equality in the law, and co-founder of gunnercooke, commented:

“These shocking findings are, sadly, not a surprise to most of the people working in the law today.  These are entrenched behaviours that stem from the historical structure of the traditional law firm where hierarchy is everything.  This kind of set-up, which is so antiquated, is still the standard today and it encourages a wielding of power from the top down.  It’s no wonder that trainees are reporting the highest levels of stress and burn-out we’ve seen.  The law needs to change, and leaders need to transform the toxic cultures of their organisations.  My firm has a flat hierarchy and the lawyers are thriving – there’s no need for the ‘command and control’ culture of the past to provide brilliant client service”. 

The global survey of almost 7,000 lawyers found 62% of female respondents and 41% of male respondents in the UK reported that they had been bullied in connection with their employment.  International averages were 55% and 30% respectively.

38% of female and 6% of male respondents in the UK reported having been sexually harassed, in comparison with 37% of female respondents and 7% of male respondents globally.