Stamp out office bullying says equal rights barrister

Leading equal opportunities barrister Margaret McCabe has called for law firm partners to undergo training to open their eyes to bullying and harassment within their firms after winning a £50,000 out of court settlement for a trainee from a three-partner Manchester firm.

Andrea Harrison, a trainee at Whitfield firm Laurence Murphy & Co, told an industrial tribunal that she became ill and developed a nervous condition following harassment by a legal executive at the firm.

McCabe, who represented Harrison at the tribunal, backed by the Equal Opportunities Commission (EOC), said that despite the Law Society requiring firms to implement anti-harassment policies, bullying and sexual harassment had not been stamped out.

“There are still pockets of deeply entrenched bad practice and those pockets are often deep,” said McCabe.

She said it was time senior partners and barristers in chambers underwent “best-practice” and equal opportunity training to help them identify and put a stop to unacceptable behaviour within their offices.

Stamping out office bullying also made economic sense, she said. Improving office morale lessened the risk of hefty damages claims.

Last month Hegarty & Co, headed by Law Society council member Richard Hegarty, paid Amanda Braithwaite £19,000 in an out of court settlement after she complained she was being paid less than her male colleagues.

Laurence Murphy & Co has now agreed to draw up policies to combat harassment with help from the EOC.