The former London managing partner of Baker McKenzie accused of propositioning a junior associate in a hotel room has told a tribunal that his behaviour was inappropriate - but denied that it was an abuse of power.
Gary Senior was giving evidence to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal today on the third day of a 15-day substantive hearing concerning alleged sexual harassment in 2012. The firm itself and two other former senior figures are also being prosecuted.
The tribunal heard that, in an email Senior sent to the head of HR a few days after Person A complained, Senior wrote: ‘This feels to me like someone is after a big payoff.’
For the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Andrew Tabachnik QC said: ‘What you go on to say is you were concerned about the reputational danger for the firm of all this coming out. You were worried that a note of an informal meeting could be used as a basis for a claim. Then you go on to express concern that she may be able to sue for £1m.’
Senior replied: ‘It was not a very sensible email. It was a regrettable email. It was an email at a time when I was suffering enormous acute stress… I was in the middle of business meetings in Zurich and then flying from Zurich to Amsterdam. It was not possible for me, I was not capable of really thinking coherently what this all meant… I feared the loss of everything that I loved and cared about. I feared the loss of my job, ability to work on anything like that level or perhaps to work again. I feared the loss of my reputation and feared the loss of my family.’
He later told the tribunal that his position was that he accepted his behaviour had been inappropriate. Having now read Person A’s witness statement and contemporaneous note of the incident, ‘this was clearly an unwanted situation so I accept that’.
Earlier, the tribunal heard that Senior stopped practising as a solicitor since the middle of last year and does not intend to practise again. ‘Is that because you now acknowledge your conduct was fundamentally unacceptable with practising as a solicitor?’, Tabachnik asked.
Senior said: ‘The reason is, at the age of 56 when I left Baker McKenzie, I had been in practice for a long time by then. I had been in leadership positions but I had also been subject to publicity without being named. If I were to ever seek to practise as a solicitor again, even if I had never been named, I would still have to disclose that and it’s very difficult. I do not believe I can practise but not because I believe I’m unfit to be a solicitor but because of what happened in 2012.’
Senior said this was a prominent case and potential employers would be concerned about the publicity it could attract.
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 left Baker McKenzie last year, 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 that began when Person A made a complaint.
The hearing continues.