Legal Business Blogs

#MeToo latest: Bakers appoints Simmons to review handling of complaint against partner accused of sexual assault

Simmons & Simmons will conduct an independent review of how Baker McKenzie handled allegations that one of its partners sexually assaulted a junior lawyer several years ago.

Bakers confirmed today (21 February) it has appointed Simmons to review the incident, which resulted in the associate leaving the firm after reaching a settlement and signing a non-disclosure agreement.

Simmons will also look at the firm’s complaint procedures when dealing with sexual misconduct and other inappropriate behaviour. The firm said in a statement: ‘The review will also look at and review all our complaints policies and procedures to ensure our employees are protected and have a voice. We will follow the recommendations of the review and will take all appropriate action.’

Bakers faced criticism for allowing the partner in question to stay at the firm and take on subsequent senior roles.

While the NDA has so far prevented the alleged perpetrator’s name from going public for risk of identifying the victim, Bakers confirmed in a statement on 5 February that the partner was no longer attending the office and will now be leaving the firm.

The firm, which conceded in the statement it ‘should have handled [the incident] better’, is also in dialogue with the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) on the matter. Bakers said in today’s statement: ‘We are co-operating in full with the SRA.’

A spokesperson for the SRA said on 5 February: ‘Now that we’re aware of the issue, we will seek further information before deciding on appropriate action.’

This latest update comes as sexual harassment remains a live topic for the legal profession. On 9 February a court in Munich sentenced a former Linklaters partner to three years and three months in prison for sexual assaulting a student at a firm party several years ago. In January, it emerged that a Dentons partner had been put on a leave of absence while the firm investigates reports of sexual misconduct while over the last few weeks the fallout from the Presidents Club exposé revealed that a number of senior lawyers had attended the controversial event.