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CMS dismisses City IP head and reports to watchdog as scrutiny of partner conduct grows

CMS Cameron McKenna Nabarro Olswang’s former head of IP Joel Barry has been asked to leave its partnership in a matter that has been reported to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA).

In the latest senior dismissal to hit City law amid increasing scrutiny of partner behaviour, CMS terminated Barry’s appointment on 16 April. CMS declined to comment on the reasons for the move, responding to a request for comment as follows: ‘We can confirm that a partner has been asked to leave the firm and will not be commenting further.’

An SRA spokesperson said: ‘Now that we are aware, we will look at all relevant information before deciding on any next steps.’

Said to be one of the highest-earning partners at legacy Olswang, Barry joined CMS after its three-way union with his former firm and Nabarro in May 2017.

The episode comes just over a year after news emerged that CMS had dismissed and reported to the SRA another former Olswang partner who had joined the firm after the merger. Corporate partner and Singapore head Andrew Stott was dismissed amid ‘confidential matters’.

In that case, CMS declined to comment on the reasons for Stott’s departure. Stott confirmed to Legal Business that he had left the firm but declined to comment further citing confidentiality provisions. A spokesperson for CMS, however, said that there was not a non-disclosure agreement drawn up as part of the process.

A number of law firms have in recent months seen partners leave following complaints of inappropriate behaviour. They include Baker McKenzie, Reed Smith, Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan, Latham & Watkins, Herbert Smith Freehills and Dentons.

Intense scrutiny is also being placed on the use of non-disclosure agreements (NDAs), with the government in March proposing new legislation that would make it illegal for employers to use gagging orders to prevent the reporting of sexual misconduct in the workplace to police.

Last month a solicitor at Allen & Overy was recommended for prosecution by the SRA over a controversial NDA drafted for film producer Harvey Weinstein. On 3 May the SRA published a list of allegations being pursued before the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal against Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer partner Ryan Beckwith.