A former employee of Baker McKenzie, present in a hotel room just prior to a 2012 incident involving the managing partner at the time, has admitted feeling ‘incredibly torn’ over the fallout.
Person B told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal yesterday that she was one of three people who left Gary Senior's room before he allegedly tried to kiss a junior associate.
The witness said she and other colleagues, who had been staying overnight in northern England, 'lingered' outside the room when Senior and Person A were left alone, although his request for them to leave 'didn't flag any alarm bells'. After a couple of minutes at most, the group knocked on the door on the pretence that they had Person A's room key.
Person B said the incident aside, she had a 'huge amount' of respect for Senior and she spoke in glowing terms about his influence on her career and that of others.
The tribunal heard she had told a colleague she was delighted when Senior was allowed to stay in his job following a complaint about the incident and spoke to the tribunal her conflicted feelings. She confirmed she supported Person A in the immediate aftermath and had signed a confidentiality agreement.
She said: '[Senior] is somebody who in the context of my job I talk about frequently as being a great leader. I felt hugely conscious of the human repercussions of this on him as an individual with a family and with children and in that context I felt incredibly torn.
'I [felt] relief and I felt comfortable the firm had treated the incident exceptionally seriously. It didn’t feel as if the firm brushed this under the carpet. I trusted those who had been involved in that process.'
She added: '[Person A] was distressed... I said just because this is somebody very senior this does not mean we sweep it under the carpet. I am afraid I did believe that.'
Person B, whose role at Baker McKenzie included encouraging graduates to apply to work at the firm, said Senior did 'many fantastic things' for the organisation and she would not be true to herself if she did not acknowledge them.
'In the role I had, which was trying to promote the firm in a very crowded market, before the incident he was one of the things I would talk about as something wonderful about Baker McKenzie,' she said. 'Relatively early on in my time at Bakers I felt Gary was somebody who took the time to get to know people who threw themselves into the firm. He really valued that. He was a people person. You would find him just as likely at work events to be speaking to chaps in the mail room as you would his fellow partners.'
Senior, admitted in 1986, is accused of trying to embrace and kiss Person A in 2012 despite receiving no indication of consent, and persisting despite Person A indicating that it was not appropriate. Senior, who last year left Baker McKenzie, allegedly acted knowing he was in a position of authority and responsibility.
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 firm is also being prosecuted by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The hearing continues.