Law harassment survey

Most criminal lawyers have experienced or seen bullying or harassment in the profession, and the majority of offenders are judges.

RNZ:  Judges worst offenders in law harassment survey

Criminal Bar Association vice-president Elizabeth Hall, who instigated the survey, said the “staggering” results were “obviously of deep concern to both the association and the Law Society”.

Types of abuse include shouting, insults and threats, and nearly one in three had experienced unwelcome sexual attention.

In nearly 65 percent of cases, the person doing the harassing or bullying was a judge.

Fewer than 17 percent of respondents made an official complaint – mainly because they believed it would not make any difference and they were afraid of the repercussions.

Of those who did complain, just 6 percent felt this fixed the problem.

  • Of the 283 respondents (181 women, 102 men), about 60 percent had been in practice more than nine years
  • 88.1 percent had personally experienced or witnessed bullying or harassment in the last four years
  • Most commonly type of bullying:
    – mockery 69.2%
    -invalid criticism 60%
    – shouting 58%
    – bullying based on age/ experience 57%
    – personal insults 45%
    – unwelcome sexual attention 28.5%
    – threats 27.3%
  • Effect of the bullying/harassment: stress, loss of confidence, anxiety, fear, moved jobs

The law profession was not alone in having with problems with harassment or abuse, Ms Hall said.

“But what is unique to the sphere of criminal practice is this very entrenched hierarchical structure governed by people who have come up through this system in which you go down to court and have strips torn off you by the judge or opposing council, you patch yourself up and do it again the next day.

“That was the practice 20 or 30 years ago – but times have changed, people have moved on and that sort of thing is no longer acceptable.”


  1. Traveller

     /  March 24, 2018

    I think that a judge by nature of his/her relationship to counsel could be construed as bullying. They’re there as an untlimate arbiter, not to coddle lawyers and defendants and one side is never going to be happy.

    • Gezza

       /  March 24, 2018

      They go from law firms to the bench & no doubt take their culture with them. The survey PG mentions about judges talks about harrassment and bullying & I too wonder if its getting conflated with sexual harrassment when for all we know someone could be talking about the Chief Justice being a bully?

  2. oldlaker

     /  March 24, 2018

    I know of judges who privately bemoan the poor standards of submissions and arguments often presented in court. Despite lawyers’ eye-watering fees, some of them (including partners in big firms) don’t do a very good job for their clients. I think judges are bound to be harsh in these circumstances. A lot of money (and even someone’s liberty) may be at stake. A few years ago the head of one of our big govt investigative bodies was privately bemoaning the low standard of writing ability of her legal staff and asking what sort of remedial action she could take. The best law students are very capable but there’s a lot of dross below them.

  3. Trevors_elbow

     /  March 24, 2018

    Harden. Up. No sympathy for Lawyers….

  4. Gezza

     /  March 24, 2018

    “But what is unique to the sphere of criminal practice is this very entrenched hierarchical structure governed by people who have come up through this system in which you go down to court and have strips torn off you by the judge or opposing council, you patch yourself up and do it again the next day.

    We have an adversarial justice system with backlogs of cases. There isn’t time to discuss cases over tea & cakes for everyone. If you can’t hack the scrap, don’t go in the ring.

  5. lurcher1948

     /  March 24, 2018

    Does anyone care for old pensioners who rescues dogs,trains them up to do dog agility and posts his middle of the road thoughts on YourNZ,don’t think so,BUT love u PG in a manly way

    • PDB

       /  March 24, 2018

      Don’t you mean ‘middle of the ditch’ Lurch?

    • Corky

       /  March 24, 2018

      I have mulled over your comments with careful consideration. My answer is a resounding ‘NO.’

      Has anyone seen my leftover KFC? The prats have substitute normal chips for string chips.
      Bloody awful..and unhealthy.

  6. Revel

     /  March 24, 2018

    Was the survey compulsory to complete? Of course it wasn’t. So 283 respondents felt strongly enough to complete it. Well hello it’s doesn’t take a PhD to work out the sort of answers you’re going to get!!!

  7. PDB

     /  March 24, 2018

    -invalid criticism 60%
    – shouting 58%
    -Hurty feelings poor didums 80%

  8. Missy

     /  March 24, 2018

    Pete, in a previous post you talked about this survey conflating it with sexual harassment, but going on the stats above it would appear less than 30% of the respondents actually were subject to unwanted sexual attention, there appears to be no mention if that was ongoing. What percentage of the unwanted sexual attention was just a twit drunkenly trying it on once at the Christmas party, or someone asking a colleague they fancied out?

    How much of the mockery or invalid criticism or personal insults wasn’t that, but just an oversensitive lawyer not liking being told they had not done their job properly?

    Without knowing how detailed the answers were to this survey there are a number of issues with it – not least the small sample size – for it to be considered hard proof that there is a widespread issue of sexual harassment, harassment, or bullying in the legal profession.

  9. One of a kind

     /  March 24, 2018

    Mockery is bullying? Umm hello?

    Lawyer to Judge: Ah, Your Honour, my client denies deliberately beating his wife up.
    He accidentally fell towards her and reached out with his hands to catch his balance. Just unfortunate his fists connected with her face.

    Judge to lawyer: Do you think I is stupid? If your client thinks I’ll believe that then maybe I should commit him for a mental assessment? Maybe you as well if you think I’ll believe that?

    Mockery is an appropriate response to a preposterous suggestion not bullying. Sorry snowflakes.

    For criminal lawyers to accuse Judges of bullying when it is they who spend half their time in court cross examining witnesses and insinuating that witnesses are liars, mistaken, or just stupid this is a touch of the pot calling the kettle black.

    I recommend all participants take 2 teaspoons of cement each – will do the trick nicely.

  10. PartisanZ

     /  March 24, 2018

    Cartwright Inquiry, cervical cancer scandal meets the Legal Profession … 30 years on …

    ‘The Adjustment’ … long overdue …