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#MeToo and Its Impact on Legal – 2018 Survey of Sexual Harassment in Law Firms

Until recently, media focus on sexual discrimination in the legal industry has been concentrated on the lawyer population, with much of it directed to compensation and promotion issues. As big firms make big news with accusations of “operating like a fraternity”“short-changing women on pay and business opportunities” and “male partners making sexist comments and rating female colleagues based on their physical attractiveness,” they continue to draw attention. Not to be left out, law school deans and a federal judge have stepped up to claim their 15 minutes as well. But lawyers’ interaction with law firm staff has been off the radar of the #MeToo movement.

Sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination, and “non-lawyer” women might also make a federal case out of it. One big firm made news this month after a suit was filed by a staff member alleging treatment “like nothing more than a sexual object” from another staff member. Conduct within law firms will likely gain a greater share of the spotlight and scrutiny may come from clients, insurance companies and potential new hires. Mell Consulting recently completed a survey in partnership with the Association of Law Firm Administrators to evaluate whether sexual harassment is a widespread concern in our profession and, if so, how can all members of the legal ecosystem address problems and promote a safe work environment. What we found was that, while many law firm leaders might think it doesn’t happen within their walls, they may need to take a thorough look inward.

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