Legal Business

Review of Baker McKenzie #MeToo incident finds ‘shortcomings’ but details scant as sacked Quinn partner finds new firm

An under-wraps independent review of Baker McKenzie’s approach to a sexual misconduct incident six years ago has concluded there were ‘a number of shortcomings’ but details are scarce. Meanwhile Mark Hastings, the disputes partner sacked by Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan earlier this year following ‘inappropriate behaviour’, has emerged at Mayfair boutique Grosvenor Law.

Bakers appointed Simmons & Simmons in February  to review the way the firm had handled accusations that one of its London partners sexually assaulted an associate in 2012 .

The associate left the firm after reaching a settlement and Bakers has faced criticism for allowing the partner in question to stay at the firm and take on subsequent senior roles. After news of the incident came to light in February this year the firm announced the partner would leave and acknowledged it should have handled the incident better.

Bakers on Monday (8 October) filed the report to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), which is investigating the incident and its response. However, the firm has refused to disclose the content publicly amid a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) signed at the time of the incident that prevents identification of the victim. Instead, the firm opted to issue today (11 October) an anonymised statement from a ‘spokesperson’ noticeably lacking in details that poses more questions than it answers. The firm declined to make any further statement or release a copy of Simmons report.

‘Simmons commented that as a firm we had been particularly open and transparent in our desire to ensure that we got to the root of the problem and to learn from our mistakes,’ said the spokesperson. ‘The report concluded that there were a number of shortcomings in the way the incident was handled at that time which we very much regret…The SRA investigation is ongoing, as is our commitment to protect the privacy of the former associate, as she has requested.’

A special committee including a group of senior Bakers partners worked on the review alongside Simmons, carrying out more than three dozen interviews and analysing documents.

The review recommended a series of initiatives which the firm will be introducing over the next few months, such as the introduction of a ‘first point of contact’ role in every office – a partner, associate or other professionals trained to deal with concerns around inappropriate conduct. The firm will also introduce mandatory workplace behaviour training.

Elsewhere, Mayfair litigation boutique Grosvenor Law has also announced today that it has hired former Quinn Emanuel partner Mark Hastings, who is also currently under investigation by the SRA following allegations of ‘inappropriate behaviour’.

Quinn sacked Hastings without compensation five months ago following allegations by two staff members and an independent investigation carried out by Alison Levitt QC of Mishcon de Reya. However, that Grosvenor Law has unveiled Hastings’ appointment means that for the time being the ongoing SRA investigation has not affected his ability to practise.

‘Mark is an excellent practitioner and his appointment bolsters our growing team,’ said Grosvenor Law partner Daniel Astaire. ‘No comment will be made into alleged matters with another firm.’

Responsibility will now fall heavily on the SRA to take the lead and decide the extent to which Baker McKenzie and Hastings need to be held to account for their actions to avoid any accusation of a whitewash in both incidents.

marco.cillario@legalbusiness.co.uk

For more on the issue of City law’s handling of NDAs, see ‘Draining the swamp’ (£)