Firm looks to assemble new management team and takes ‘appropriate action’ in relation to other staff
The managing partner of Baker McKenzie in Belgium is departing the firm following a review into claims of racism made by a former colleague.
Daniel Fesler, an experienced lawyer of nearly 30 years, has permanently stepped down from his leadership role, the international firm confirmed.
The firm is to assemble a new management team following its findings and said it had taken “appropriate action” in relation to other members of staff.
Kirsty Wilson, a member of Baker McKenzie’s executive committee and its global inclusion, diversity & equity committee chair, said:
“We have completed a thorough review of the incidents and broader issues raised in our former colleague’s email. Where we were able to identify individuals responsible for specific incidents, appropriate action has been taken. We are incredibly sorry and sincerely regret that our former Belgium colleague, or any colleague, has had this experience.”
Wilson confirmed that “a new management team will take our Belgium offices forward” and that “as part of this, we have agreed with Daniel Fesler that he will permanently step down from the role of managing partner and leave the firm. We thank him for his service and commitment to clients over the past 30 years”.
Fesler had temporarily stepped down from the role pending the completion of the firm’s investigation.
The probe was launched after we exclusively revealed that a former lawyer at the firm had quit over what she claimed was a “lack of diversity” in a departing email to colleagues.
The mixed-race lawyer, who we have not named, alleged a series of discriminatory incidents took place during her time at the firm, which included colleagues using the “N word”, touching her hair out of curiosity, and questioning whether a family photo was “a rap album cover”.
She also claimed she was “yelled at” by a staff member for reporting the use of “blackface” during a traditional “Sinterklass” event and that her work email address indicated only part of her surname as “it would otherwise be confusing for clients”.
The lawyer also appeared to have her abilities as a mother called into question when she told colleagues in the lengthy farewell email, which was leaked to us, that she was asked how she’d manage in her “situation” when applying for an associate training position abroad.
“We are very sorry and sincerely regret that this individual, and any colleague, has had this experience,” said Wilson at the time. “We are absolutely committed to continue building a positive, respectful and truly inclusive culture that lives up to our values as a firm and where all of our people feel they belong.”