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Freshfields considers fining mega-earning partners 20% of their income for misconduct

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Reported plan follows resignation of scandal-hit Ryan Beckwith

Freshfields is reportedly considering a plan to fine its mega-earning partners up to 20% of their profit share for personal misconduct.

The idea under discussion at the highest level within the magic circle giant is for a new “conduct committee” to investigate misbehaviour by partners — and potentially dish out whopping fines.

The move, reported by Legal Week (£), follows the resignation of Freshfields partner Ryan Beckwith over a sexual misconduct finding.

A disciplinary tribunal found earlier this month that Beckwith had breached regulatory rules after engaging in sexual activity with an intoxicated junior colleague.

The website says that a new Freshfields “conduct protocol” would levy an “automatic fixed financial penalty” of 20% on partners issued with a final warning about their behaviour after an internal investigation. With Freshfields’ profit per equity partner (PEP) hitting £1.84 million last year, the new regime could see miscreants having to hand back hundreds of thousands of pounds.

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Freshfields is only the latest legal giant to be hit by accusations of inappropriate behaviour by top lawyers. Last year saw a Latham & Watkins partner resign over sexual communications with a woman unconnected to the firm, while Clyde & Co booted out a partner of their own after complaints by junior female colleagues.

Freshfields senior partner Edward Braham said: “We are committed to improving behaviour and inclusiveness. For more than a year we have been running a global behaviours programme to drive culture change, which includes reviewing and adjusting our HR processes, governance and systems across the firm. We want to ensure that positive behaviour is consistently valued and that inappropriate behaviour is called out and acted upon. The plans for a conduct committee and protocol are part of this ongoing programme across the firm.”

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25 Comments

Senator Palpatine

Do it.

Gus Fring

Do it.

Shia Labeouf

JUST.

DO IT.

Legal Officer with a 2.ii

Sad that it has to come down to the risk of losing money they don’t need.

Why not treat people with respect in the first place?

Anonymous

How do you know they don’t need the money? Do you have access to the life stories of each and every one of Freshfields’ partners?

Non

Based on PEP, paying over 20% would leave the average partner with just shy of £1.5m.

I know lots have to shell out boatloads in alimony and assorted school fees, but even then, they should be okay.

Anonymous

How do you know that “they should be ok”? Who made you arbiter of how much money people need?

Anonymous

No one “needs” £1.5m per year, unless you’re suggesting outrageous cocaine habits and a string of mistresses to upkeep constitute needs.

Anonymous

How do you know though they don’t need it? You don’t. So shut the fuck up.

Anonymous

Ryan Beckwith wasn’t treated with respect, that’s part of the problem. Has he appealed the SDT decision yet?

Anon

Ryan Beckwith wasn’t treated with respect. Has he appealed the decision yet?

Anonymous

Most people feel Ryan Beckwith was very harshly treated.

Anonymous

I know! Including his accountant, butler, maid, gardener, mistress…

Anonymous

Thinking more of the many people who have expressed disquiet about the SRA involving themselves in matters outside their jurisdiction.

Doubt he has a butler – that sounds like the type of false accusation which is very common in sexual misconduct allegations.

Anonn

Ah, you of absolutely no evidence whatsoever for mass false accusations of sexual harassment against lawyers.

Must tell my bank manager of the millions of pounds I’m imagining that should definitely exist in my accounts because I say so.

Yep, another ‘false accusation’. My god, you are persecuted aren’t you?

Anonymous

Although, as you know, it’s for the accuser and not the accused to find proof, the claim that Ryan Beckwith has a butler, together with your claim that there is no evidence of false accusations, are examples of false accusations.

Sounds as if conversations with your bank manager and having millions in the bank are not the only things you are imagining!

Anonn

And many others feel the SRA were right.

So what?

Anonymous

So the vast majority of commenters feel that they were wrong and that Ryan Beckwith was very harshly treated. If the SRA purports to act to protect public confidence in solicitors but acts in a way which is contrary to public opinion then it will lose relevance.

Looking at it from a logical point of view, the SRA was acting outside of its remit in acting as a self-appointed moral guardian.

Anonnn

By your own logic, you wouldn’t be able to ask your firm to stop a woman sexually harassing you, because that could make the firm act as a moral guardian over her behaviour.

Regardless of how that behaviour impacted on your career and ability to make a living as a solicitor.

Incredible the loopholes people are willing to devise to excuse violence against others. You were born for this job, no?

Anonymous

That is a false accusation. False accusations are very common in matters relating to sexual harassment.

The point was about the SRA, not firms, but in each case just because neither of them should be getting involved in moral matters outside of their remit doesn’t mean they can’t become involved in allegations of immoral behaviour within their remit. Ryan Beckwith wasn’t accused of sexual harassment.

Your point about violence isn’t relevant to the discussion.

Anon

Wtf??

Query

What happens to profits returned? Vanish into the pockets of the committee members? Could be a great way to do your fellow partners out of a few £££

FFS

This is all for optics. There is no way you can eradicate the toxic privilege that macerates the firm.

Richard Roe

Misguided. Something happens in future and all stakeholders will regard the matter settled after a fine? I doubt it. This is a clueless looking move – makes it look like Freshfields think that money – or the removal of it – can solve things.

K

It’s not just Partners who need to be fined for misconduct, middle management at the firm should be included in this too! They are a shambles.

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