The former head of global legal giant Baker McKenzie’s London office is facing prosecution for alleged sexual harassment, the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said today with the former chief and his former firm instructing partners at law firms Kingsley Napley and RadcliffesLeBrasseur to represent them.
Gary Senior, who left the firm last year, has been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT) to face allegations he “behaved in an inappropriate manner towards Person A”.
Two of Senior’s former colleagues at Baker McKenzie, Tom Cassels and Martin Blackburn, who now work at Linklaters and KPMG, respectively have been charged by the SDT over allegations they allowed him to use his seniority to influence the investigation.
The watchdog also referred Baker McKenzie itself to a disciplinary tribunal for allowing Senior to attempt to influence the investigation, and for telling the woman who complained about him that he had not.
The firm is also accused of not referring Mr Senior to the SRA when it learned of his alleged misconduct in 2012.
Instead, the woman agreed to sign an NDA with Baker McKenzie after the internal investigation had been concluded.
The sex abuse scandal first emerged in February 2018, when the existence of Baker McKenzie’s investigation into the matter was revealed, and Simmons & Simmons was appointed to conduct another independent review.
The second investigation found “a number of shortcomings in the way the incident was handled” by the first.
The allegations claim that in 2012 Senior is alleged to have “sought to initiate intimate activity with Person A” in circumstances where he was in a position of responsibility over Person A and had knowingly caused Person A to be alone with him.
Senior allegedly told Person A he was attracted to her, attempted to embrace and kiss Person A and persisted in such conduct despite Person A indicating that it was not appropriate.
In a statement Baker McKenzie said:
“As we have previously disclosed, we have been co-operating fully with the SRA since the beginning of this process last year, including sharing with them in September the full findings of the report we commissioned into the 2012 incident which was carried out last year in conjunction with the law firm Simmons & Simmons. It was that report which brought to light the full extent to which our internal processes fell short of what should be expected and were undermined in a way that was unacceptable and should never have happened.
“As we said last September both publicly and privately to the SRA, we fully accept there were significant shortcomings in the procedures that we followed in 2012 and subsequently. This is something which we very much regret. We could and should have done much better in handling the issue at the time and subsequently, and we have since introduced and reinforced robust processes to ensure these shortcomings can never be repeated.
As a result of our review of the incident from which we are determined to learn and improve, we have enhanced our internal due diligence processes, including around the way we vet candidates for promotion in the firm. We have also taken steps to encourage a ‘speak up ‘ culture across the firm. We are confident that these changes will prevent something like this from ever happening again.”
In a statement Linklaters said: “We note the SRA’s decision to refer this matter to the SDT and Tom has the firm’s full support. Tom is a hugely respected and distinguished lawyer who, since joining us in 2016, has become a trusted and valued partner. He has a long track record of championing diversity initiatives, including our own internal ‘He for She’ campaign and as a mentor for the 30 per cent Club.”