Almost a fifth of firms have introduced restrictions around client entertainment in the response to the #MeToo movement, according to a survey by City practice DAC Beachcroft.
During a webinar on regulatory risks for lawyers, DAC Beachcroft said 18.4% of surveyed firms have brought in restrictions or controls around client entertainment to reduce the risk of sexual harassment. A similar proportion were considering introducing restrictions.
However, 63% of practices have done nothing at all.
DAC Beachcroft partner Tom Bedford said he found the results ‘quite surprising’ and warned that home-working does not rule out the possibility of sexual harassment taking place.
‘Just because we are not seeing each other does not mean that sexual harassment can’t occur… We anticipate cases will arise where harassment has taken place over email and other forms of communication,’ he said.
However, he hoped there will be a reduction in cases of sexual harassment, ‘partly because there’s been so much publicity about them’.
‘Hopefully people are starting to understand the boundaries within which they should be behaving,’ Bedford said.
Race discrimination is also likely to be a key issue for the Solicitors Regulation Authority going forward, DAC Beachcroft predicted.
‘The SRA will be looking at this area closely and an allegation of race discrimination, for example, would prompt a self-report to the SRA,’ Bedford said.
In June, the regulator revealed it was investigating 117 cases of alleged sexual misconduct, following a surge in reporting over the past six months.
Despite the growing number of harassment cases reported to the SRA, however, only seven were referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal in 2019.