The former London managing partner of Baker McKenzie propositioned a junior associate in his hotel room after asking her to stay behind, a tribunal heard today.
On the first morning of submissions, Gary Senior faced the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal today over alleged sexual harassment which occurred in 2012. The firm itself, along with two other senior figures, are also being prosecuted.
For the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Andrew Tabachnik QC said: ‘This case arises because [Gary Senior], while managing partner of a leading UK and global firm, propositioned Person A, a six month or so associate solicitor, in the early hours… having asked her to stay behind in his hotel room while all the others left.’
Senior allegedly told Person A she was ‘very attractive’ and ‘gave her an unwanted kiss on the neck.’ Immediately after she left the hotel he emailed her saying ‘Sorry!!’.
In a further email, Senior allegedly wrote that he was ‘deeply sorry’ and ‘terribly embarrassed’. He added ‘I’m a popular managing partner because I enjoy drinking with others’ and ‘if I get drunk I get tactile and affectionate’.
Tabachnik argued that Senior’s acts were aggravated by his alcohol consumption during the evening. Senior allegedly drank during a recruitment dinner, which Person A attended, then went to a bar and then on to a night club. Five people, including Person A, then went back to his hotel room and ordered wine and beer.
Tabachnik said Person A was ‘extremely distressed’ by the incident and was ‘fearful her career at the firm would be adversely affected by the fact she had rejected the managing partner’s advances. That’s the inevitable effect of sexual harassment by someone in position of power and responsibility.’
He added: ‘The bundle is replete with adjectives that others have used to describe the first respondent’s conduct: "reprehensible", "unacceptable", "seriously inappropriate".
Thomas Kennedy Cassels and Martin Lawrence Blackburn, who were with Baker McKenzie in 2012 as a partner and head of HR respectively, are being prosecuted in relation to the investigation which began when Person A made a complaint about Senior the following Monday morning.
On the investigation, the SRA argued there were ‘elementary errors that should not have been allowed to happen’.
Tabachnik quoted emails from Blackburn to Senior which read ‘I realise this is a really difficult situation but I am confident we will get through it’ and ‘I’m struggling to come to terms with the potential ramifications which I sincerely hope we can avoid’.
The tribunal hearing, which is set to last for 15 days, continues.
A spokesperson for Baker McKenzie said: 'We have been co-operating fully with the Solicitors Regulation Authority since the beginning of this process last year. In September 2018, we shared with the SRA the findings of the report we commissioned into the 2012 incident which was carried out in conjunction with the law firm Simmons & Simmons. We’ve learned much from this episode, recognised what went wrong and have well-established and effective policies and programmes in place across the firm.'