Women & Black Barristers Are Disproportionately Affected By Bullying & Discrimination At Work

Women & Black Barristers Are Disproportionately Affected By Bullying & Discrimination At Work


James Rowland

Commercial Director James leads Account Management, Sales and Marketing at Neathouse Partners.


24 February 2023


17 July 2024
3 min read

A survey conducted by the Bar Council reveals that women and black barristers are more likely to suffer from bullying, harassment, or discrimination in law firms, Crown Prosecution Services (CPS), or Government Legal Departments.

According to the report:

  • 25% of women were reported to have experienced bullying and harassment compared to 10.2% of men.
  • black, employed barristers faced disproportionate discrimination in person at work and bullying, harassment or discrimination while working online.
  • Just under 1/5th of those surveyed were CPS employees but they represented nearly a quarter of professionals who had experienced or witness worrying workplace behaviours
  • Both managers and colleagues were found to be the source of bullying at work for Bar employees.

Report Findings

Out of 3,106 employed barristers which represent around 1/5th of the entire bar, 31% of those surveyed in Bar Council's 2021 Working Lives Survey indicate that they have been subjected to bullying, discrimination, or harassment in some form.

A shocking 25% of women were reported to have been targeted by workplace bullying and harassment including online, with 23% experiencing discrimination in the office. In contrast, these numbers decreased significantly amongst males with only 10.2 % reporting to have been bullied and 6% discriminated against at work.

The employed Bar is more ethnically diverse than both the self-employed Bar and the working-age population of England and Wales, with 19.1 per cent of employed barristers identifying as being from an ethnic minority or mixed-race background.

Out of the survey participants, CPS employees comprised 19.2%, yet they represented a larger portion of those who encountered bullying or harassment at work (in-person/online) at 24.3%, and 23.3% reported witnessing these behaviours take place in the workplace as well.

According to the report, 15.7% of employed barristers are part of the Government Legal Department; however, they made up an alarming 19.4% of those who reported discrimination online in the survey.

Concerningly, 25% of survey respondents identified another barrister as being responsible for the alleged discrimination, 19% blamed a manager and 16.1% said it was a judge's fault.

Using The Feedback To Make Important Changes

Despite the view that employed barristers experience a greater level of diversity and inclusivity, the report highlights that serious issues lie beneath this perception. Bullying, harassment and discrimination are just as commonplace among those who are hired by others over freelancing.

By utilising data-driven insight and accounts from those affected through feedback, focus groups in Autumn 2022 and the Barristers' Working Lives survey in 2021, this report identifies the obstacles faced by the Bar's employees and marks an essential milestone in their effort to advocate for them.

James Rowland, Commercial Director at Neathouse Partners comments; "The experiences highlighted in the report offer a critical reminder of the importance of creating working environments that encourage equality and embrace diversity, as well as the value that good HR management, training for supervisors, and strong workplace policies can have in every sector.

Regardless of the industry and any perceptions that may be held on diversity and inclusivity, issues of bullying, harassment, and inequality in earnings must be exposed and tackled head-on. Without effective management and taking steps to create cultures where staff feel able to speak up and challenge, inequalities like this can all impact career progression, and income, and leave people feeling undervalued by their peers."

Tackling Bullying & Harassment At The Bar

Tackling Bullying & Harassment At The Bar

More than 17,000 barristers in England and Wales abide by a shared code of conduct that outlines their training processes, independence and dedication to upholding the rule of law, so those in charge of protecting these individuals at work must take action now to ensure that all legal professionals can flourish in a workplace that is free of bullying and harassment.

According to the report, the Bar Council's resolution to battle bullying and harassment should focus on the employed bar and must promote Talk to Spot reporting platforms that allow them to monitor incidents to provide suitable interventions. The Bar Council should also collaborate with Crown Prosecution Service, Government Legal Department as well as law firms for culture change programs and initiatives designed to tackle these issues effectively.


Almost a fifth of the Bar are employed, and they experience advantages that those self-employed in the sector do not: greater diversity, higher levels of well-being, and more freedom. However, research findings from a survey conducted by the Bar Council reveal that women and black barristers are more likely to suffer from bullying, harassment, or discrimination in law firms, Crown Prosecution Services (CPS), or Government Legal Departments which can impact career progression and income, and peer support in Chambers. You can view the full report here.

Neathouse Partners can help organisations of all sizes and specialties review their existing HR policies, create healthier workplace environments, and develop more effective strategies for recruiting, retaining, and rewarding staff. The firm's expertise in employment law provides clients with peace of mind knowing that they have the right solutions in place to protect their staff and business.

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