Hearings in the long-running disciplinary case against Baker McKenzie and three former executives at the firm concluded last week, with one QC describing the proceedings as ‘completely unnecessary’.
Over four days, barristers representing former London managing partner Gary Senior, former partner Thomas Cassels, former HR director Martin Blackburn, and the firm itself, delivered their closing submissions online.
For Senior, Gregory Treverton-Jones QC warned the tribunal not to let ‘the pendulum swing too far’ in the wake of the #MeToo movement. His client is accused of trying to embrace and kiss a junior associate in a hotel room in 2012, following a night out. He denies misconduct.
While Treverton-Jones described Senior’s behaviour on the night in question as ‘inappropriate and reprehensible’, he said the evidence ‘does not establish inappropriate conduct beyond that admitted throughout by Mr Senior, and that conduct does not amount to professional misconduct.’
Senior was properly sanctioned in 2012 when he received a final written warning, said Treverton-Jones, adding that the SRA’s case had been ‘completely unnecessary’.
Emails exchanged by Senior and Cassels, the partner who investigated the alleged misconduct, were also defended. Cassels and Blackburn are accused of allowing Senior to improperly influence or seek to influence the investigation by reason of his position of seniority within the firm. Both deny the allegations, as does the firm.
For Cassels, Richard Coleman QC said Senior had been at ‘immediate risk of self-harm or worse’ after the incident and that Cassels had sought to ‘alleviate his anxiety’. In one email, Cassels told Senior he was ‘increasingly confident we can land this in an OK place’.
Coleman rebutted the SRA’s claim that there were ‘elementary errors that should not have been allowed to happen’ in the investigation, arguing that the regulator had deployed emails out of context.
Judgment is expected in June.