An Epidemic of Law Firm Bullies? Survey Reveals Disturbing Results

Big law industry experts Patrick McKenna and David Parnell polled 124 law firm leaders at the nation’s top 100 law firms regarding bullying in the legal field. The results were shocking: 93 percent of those polled reported “bullying” at their firms. Other offenses included lack of respect, not being a team player, having a “me-first” agenda, and poor management habits such as getting in on time.

Who are these bullies? What are firm leaders doing to address the issue? Firm leaders cite these offenders to be the high-earners, with three-quarters making average or above average profits per partner. It is no surprise, however, to see that for this reason only approximately forty-percent of managing partners surveyed admitted they were reluctant to reprimand these individuals. Moreover, 22 percent stated the discomfort prevented them from taking any action at all. Firm leaders assert that inaction derives from the discomfort aspect of confronting a fellow coworker regarding the issue.

Nevertheless, numerous law firm leaders are taking action to prevent further bullying at their firms. The survey showed that 59 percent had cut a partner’s compensation because of bad behavior and 52 percent asked partners to leave because of poor conduct.

The question is: What can firms do to prevent bullying in the workplace? According to McKenna and Parnell, firms lack suitable procedures for disciplining partners who act out of line. Firms should review their procedures and add clear and strict guidelines on how to handle these problems. Perhaps firms should offer incentives for those who adhere to firm’s cultural values and promote a safe and welcoming atmosphere for all. Nonetheless, addressing firm bullying on the spot can not only avoid further anxiety and hostile environments in the workplace, but it can also open clear communication lines for all the parties involved.

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