Legal Business Blogs

Ince in firing line over ‘inappropriate’ restaurant behaviour allegations

Ince has launched a formal internal investigation after a viral tweet from a Cardiff restaurant owner claimed a group of its lawyers had behaved inappropriately towards a waitress.

In the social media post, which as of today (9 May) has been ‘liked’ close to 132,000 times, Cora owner Lee Skeet alleged in an email that the group had ‘talked down to, disrespected, and touched unwantedly’ a 22-year-old waitress named Lily.

Skeet went on to offer the party a refund, writing: ‘I would thank you to never come back to my restaurant. Lily means a lot more to me than money. I also think you should assess the people you surround yourself with.’

The email (sent on 4 May) was addressed to Ince’s head of finance, John Biles. However Legal Business understands that it was the behaviour of Biles’ guests at the table, rather than his own, that was being questioned.

The next day (5 May), an internal Ince memo announced that Biles, 82, will be retiring from the firm over a four-month transition period – but Ince claims this announcement was pre-planned and unrelated to the incident.

A spokesperson for Ince said: ‘The company has been made aware of allegations in the media in relation to senior staff attending a dinner on Wednesday evening. The independent directors have therefore initiated a formal investigation. Whilst it is ongoing it would be inappropriate to comment further.’

The news would have pricked the ears of the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which will be awaiting the outcome of Ince’s internal probe. The investigation will be conducted by the aforementioned ‘independent directors’ though Ince did not disclose any specific names.

If any Ince solicitors are found to have been in breach of the SRA’s Principles, the firm would be expected to self-report any wrongdoing.

Most potentially relevant would be principal 2, to act: ‘…in a way that upholds public trust and confidence in the solicitors’ profession and in legal services provided by authorised persons.’

Rule 3.9 of the SRA’s Code of Conduct for firms states: ‘You report promptly to the SRA, or another approved regulator, as appropriate, any facts or matters that you reasonably believe are capable of amounting to a serious breach of their regulatory arrangements by any person regulated by them (including you) of which you are aware. If requested to do so by the SRA, you investigate whether there have been any serious breaches that should be reported to the SRA.’