Amounted to serious professional misconduct, tribunal finds
The former London boss of one of the world’s largest law firms committed serious professional misconduct when he attempted to kiss a junior lawyer in his hotel room after a night of drinking in 2012, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) has found.
A three person tribunal today ruled that Gary Senior, a former managing partner at Baker McKenzie, had breached professional rules by attempting to initiate intimate activity with a junior female colleague, known only as ‘Person A’, when he was in a position of seniority.
He was also found to have attempted to use his senior position within the firm to improperly influence an internal investigation of the matter.
Senior was fined £55,000 and has reportedly agreed to pay costs of £40,000.
A third allegation concerning Senior’s alleged failure to promptly report his misconduct to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) was found not proven.
Bakers’ HR director and partner who conducted the investigation, Martin Blackburn and Thomas Cassels, were cleared of all wrongdoing, as was the firm itself. The tribunal did note, however, that Cassels “committed an error of judgment in the manner in which the investigation was carried out” but that his actions did not amount to professional misconduct.
As for Blackburn, the SDT recognised that he was not a decision-maker in the firm’s investigation into Senior’s actions.
In a statement issued through a spokesperson, Senior said:
“I bitterly regret what happened in 2012. The matter was not covered up by the firm in 2012. An investigation was carried out by the firm involving a number of senior partners. At the time I believed I behaved appropriately in that investigation while cooperating with them and no comment to the contrary was made to me by those conducting the process. I cannot make any further comment until I have studied the Tribunal’s reasons for deciding as they have, as they did not give any reasons for their decision today.”
In a statement Baker McKenzie said: “The firm has co-operated fully with the SRA throughout this process. We are pleased that no finding of professional misconduct has been made against Baker McKenzie.”
It continued: “We are a different firm from a decade ago with new leadership, an enhanced purpose and a commitment to diversity and inclusion. This is reflected by the actions we have taken and policies we have introduced that ensure that all of our people, regardless of seniority, feel empowered to call out wrong or inappropriate behaviour.”
“Following this incident, we have also enhanced our internal policies, including around corporate governance. Something like this must never happen again,” Bakers added.