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Linklaters ends culture row as wannabe whistleblower agrees to destroy confidential documents

Former Linklaters executive committee member Frank Mellish has agreed that he will not disclose information raising concerns over the firm’s culture after his former employer obtained an injunction against him.

Mr Justice Warby said in a judgment in the High Court today (18 February) that the firm’s former director of business development and marketing had signed an agreement with the firm to destroy copies of various ‘confidential documents’ he originally intended to share with the media, settling the dispute.

Linklaters obtained a temporary injunction against Mellish on 5 February, after he announced he was going to share information highlighting what he described as ‘the ongoing struggle Linklaters has with women in the workplace’.

The Magic Circle firm had applied for an injunction on the basis that the disclosures would be a breach of confidence and Mellish’s contract included an obligation of confidentiality over the information obtained during his work. The firm’s former director intended to disclose details around three specific events, called the ‘Munich incident, the NY Settlement and the London Settlement’.

In a second hearing on Monday 11 February, Mellish instructed his lawyers to write on his behalf that he didn’t oppose the injunction, and three days later he signed a draft consent order to destroy the documents and bring the litigation to an end.

‘We can confirm that the court has approved an order reached by agreement which, in effect, makes the previous order final and brings these proceedings to an end,’ said a spokesperson for Linklaters. ‘We did not take the decision to apply for an injunction lightly. We have a strong, supportive workplace culture and everyone working with us should be able to rely on information shared confidentially with the firm remaining confidential.’

Linklaters hired Mellish from Deloitte Australia in March 2017, but he was given six months’ notice in June 2018.

Last month he emailed Linklaters senior partner Charlie Jacobs and managing partner Gideon Moore saying he intended to ‘share my impressions of the current culture at Linklaters’ in interviews during the first two weeks of February. Linklaters then applied to prevent the disclosure of this information, including the identity of a former partner who was the subject of complaints by another staff member.

While Linklaters did not seek to restrain Mellish from sharing in general terms his impressions of the firm’s current culture, it also applied to prevent Mellish from disclosing any detail on its internal discussions over any public response to questions raised from the three named incidents.

Mellish did not appear in court for either of the hearings, while Linklaters instructed Andrew Caldecott QC and Aidan Eardley of One Brick Court.