Baker McKenzie is to launch a review of its procedures following the handling of an allegation that one of its partners sexually assaulted a junior lawyer. Bakers confirmed the move after details of the incident and its handling went public on Friday (2 February).
In a statement, Bakers confirmed the partner will be leaving the firm and added: ‘We are in dialogue with the SRA [Solicitors Regulation Authority] on this matter. As a firm, our values of inclusion and diversity are extremely important to us and we are committed to ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all employees. That is why we are commissioning an independent review of this particular incident and how it was subsequently handled by the firm.
‘The review will also consider how we handle complaints of sexual misconduct and other inappropriate behaviour toward colleagues, to ensure we are guaranteeing the protection of our employees. We are really sorry this incident ever happened and we acknowledge we should have handled it better.’
A spokesperson for the SRA said: ‘Now that we’re aware of the issue, we will seek further information before deciding on appropriate action.’
The alleged assault was first reported last week by RollOnFriday, following a claim by a junior lawyer. However, the incident took place several years ago. In response, a confidential settlement was agreed with the complainant.
However, that the partner remained with the firm and subsequently took another senior role will generate harsh scrutiny of Bakers’ initial handling of the complaint. Bakers was first notified of an inquiry regarding the incident in 2016 before it was brought to the firm’s attention again last month with more details.
The controversy comes after a troubling start to 2018 in terms of highlighting claims of harassment and misogyny in the legal industry. 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 last week the fallout from the Presidents Club exposé revealed that a number of senior lawyers had attended the event.