Travers introduces safe word to call out inappropriate behaviour

Travers Smith has launched a campaign to help its staff feel empowered to call out inappropriate language within the firm.

‘#ThatsNotCool’ is being promoted as the phrase that anyone at the firm can use if they feel uncomfortable with something a colleague has said.

David Patient, Travers Smith
David Patient

The three-word message, which Travers is using in hashtag format, emerged out of a partners’ discussion session about how to call out inappropriate language.

So far it has been promoted through the firm’s inclusive language seminars, run by its CSR and diversity director Chris Edwards and employment partner Siân Keall, but managing partner David Patient said there will eventually be a wider campaign around it.

“It is about trying to promote inclusion in the broader sense,” Patient told The Lawyer. “We were trying to find a way to empower people to support each other. If someone finds something that has been said uncomfortable, they don’t have to shy away, they can say ‘That’s not cool’ and immediately the whole situation is defused. It’s not about blame or ridicule, it makes things non-confrontational.”

Patient said the move was not a specific reaction to the #MeToo phenomenon which has been sparked by the Harvey Weinstein sexual harassment revelations. The question of attitudes to gender in the legal profession has also been in the news of late, with the revelation that several lawyers were on the guest list for the now-notorious Presidents Club dinner.

Meanwhile, Baker McKenzie has been forced to issue an apology over the way in which it handled a sexual misconduct complaint made by an associate several years ago, instructing Simmons & Simmons to conduct an independent external review.

It is not the first time the legal profession has grappled with more sensitive use of language. In 2016 The Lawyer revealed that Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer was officially banning ‘Dear Sirs’ from all of its communications and legal documents.