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Freshfields partner exits following internal conduct probe

In a fresh reverse for Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer amid the string of disclosures of harassment impacting the profession, a partner at the City giant has exited following an internal investigation.

Nicholas Williams, a partner since 2017 in the Magic Circle firm’s London disputes practice, left the firm on 11 December after the firm launched an internal probe into personal misconduct allegations.

Freshfields said in a statement: ‘We can confirm that following an internal investigation, Nick Williams has left the firm and his last day was 11 December.’

The move comes in the same week Freshfields partnership voted in new enforcement protocols that mean partners who receive a final warning for personal behaviour issues could face an automatic fine equal to 20% of their profit share for 12 months.

The reforms were aimed at curbing harassment of staff and came in the wake of the public embarrassment Freshfields faced in October when the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) fined former partner Ryan Beckwith £35,000 and ordered him to pay £200,000 in legal costs following a high-profile hearing concerning sexual activity with a junior lawyer in his team.

A firm-wide programme to improve culture and behaviour has also resulted in a set of principles – ‘Show respect, be there for one another, be positive role models, and be open with one another’ – as a means of tackling these problems.

As legal regulators make a concerted push to clamp down on toxic working practices and unethical behaviour, there is no sign that the string of #MeToo allegations against major law firms is abating.

A prosecution of Baker McKenzie’s former City head Gary Senior is currently before the SDT revolving around allegations of harassment towards a junior associate.

For more on the #MeToo problem in the legal profession, read: ‘Full disclosure – How to resolve the profession’s #MeToo problem