lawyers, for themselves, are reluctant to sue

Is the most worrying thing that a lawyer is the victim of ill-treatment or that he does not envisage any action against his attacker, neither disciplinary nor judicial? The Paris Bar published in its bulletin of April 20 a survey of 30,000 Parisian lawyers and student lawyers on discrimination and harassment, moral or sexual. This consultation has no scientific value, since only 1,154 people responded, probably the most concerned by the subject. It nevertheless raises the issue of non-recourse by these legal professionals.

While 27% say they have themselves been victims of discrimination and 38% victims of harassment, eight out of ten “victims” say they are not considering any action. These results do not show any improvement compared to those from a much larger study carried out in 2017 and 2018 by the Defender of Rights among 7,000 lawyers throughout the country.

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The reasons given to justify this non-recourse to disciplinary bodies or to the courts appear confusing, on the part of lawyers: “willingness to turn the page”, “insufficient evidence”, “recourse will be useless”, “fear of reprisals”etc.

“The fear of reprisals is real”

Women are the first victims of these acts, especially in the event of pregnancy. “In many cases, when a person says they are the victim of bullying, you realize when they detail the story that there is behind gender discrimination”says Laetitia Marchand, a lawyer elected to the bar association and responsible with Chloé Belloy for the harassment and discrimination commission of the bar (called ComHaDis).

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“The fear of reprisals is real in a profession where a link of dependence exists when, to start, after an internship in a firm, you have to find a partner who takes you on as a collaborator”, note Me Marchand, who recently had a working meeting on sexist discrimination with the Defender of Rights, Claire Hédon, and the president, Julie Couturier.

For several years, however, the successive presidents of this bar, which has more than 40% of the country’s lawyers, have attacked what looks like a scourge, even if it is of course not the prerogative of this liberal profession. But it was not until 2019 that a temporary ban on practicing was pronounced for the first time against a colleague because of “inappropriate behavior” with regard to an intern and a student magistrate.

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