Trainee solicitor sued Reed Smith over mishandled harassment investigation

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By Legal Cheek on

Rookie’s ‘name and other personal details’ included in report to regulator despite assurance of anonymity

London Clyde & Co solicitors

Reed Smith was sued by one of its own trainee solicitors after it submitted her “name and other personal details” to the regulator as part of a report into an allegation of sexual harassment. The global law firm’s well-intentioned act of self-reporting came despite it reportedly assuring the rookie that she would remain anonymous.

Last week it emerged that Reed Smith dismissed a partner in its London office following a complaint of sexual harassment. While details were thin on the ground, it is understood the incident took place over a year ago and involved a female trainee. The partner, who hasn’t been named, left in late 2017 and is now working at another firm.

RollOnFriday is now reporting that there was a second alleged victim who went on to take legal action against Reed Smith over its handling of the internal investigation. According to the weekly legal blog, a Reed Smith lawyer became aware of the investigation and informed the firm that another trainee had come to her claiming she had also been harassed by the same partner after a work function.

The report, citing an unnamed source, goes on to claim the second alleged victim wished to remain anonymous and, as a result, “Reed Smith agreed with her in advance that her identity would be kept strictly confidential as a condition of her participation.”

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However, having interviewed the partner, who had now left the firm, Reed Smith filed a report to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) which contained the second alleged victim’s “name and other personal details”. The firm, however, did take the time to redact other sensitive information including the name of another partner accused of harassment, the blog reports. It is also said that the global firm “accidentally” scheduled meetings on the firm’s “freely-available” intranet system with the title “Meeting to discuss [partner’s name] and [another partner’s name] future”.

Unhappy with being named, it is understood the young rookie sued the global firm for, among other things, breach of confidentiality, but was forced to back down due to a lack of funds.

Tamara Box, Reed Smith’s managing partner for Europe & Middle East, said:

“We do not tolerate harassment in any form at Reed Smith. We carried out our internal investigation fully and properly as soon as we became aware of this incident, and we are confident that we took all appropriate actions. In dealing with this sensitive matter we owe duties both to our people, who are always our paramount concern, as well as to our regulator. The SRA is empowered to police these issues and has statutory powers to require disclosure. This can lead to complex situations, which in this case we sought to manage in the best way possible whilst of course fully complying with our regulatory obligations.”

A spokesperson for the SRA said: “We can confirm we are investigating before deciding on next steps”.

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