A male partner at magic circle firm Freshfields groped an ‘exceptionally drunk’ junior female colleague after a night of drinking, a disciplinary tribunal heard today.
Ryan Beckwith, a restructuring and insolvency expert with Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, allegedly asked to use the bathroom of Person A, who was an associate in her twenties at the time, having entered a taxi with her after an evening of heavy drinking.
Person A, whose identity is protected, told the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal that she was ‘feeling more and more drunk and more and more impaired’ after leaving a City pub with Beckwith after an ‘impromptu’ evening out with colleagues.
She fell asleep in the taxi and woke up to find her jeans undone. She said Beckwith then entered her flat to use her bathroom.
Person A said her memories were not ‘fully formed’ but that she later woke up to find herself partially clothed in bed and Beckwith sitting on the floor. She said she could not remember how she came to be undressed.
She told Beckwith she ‘did not feel comfortable’ and repeated ‘you are a partner’ and ‘you are married’, the tribunal heard.
Person A recalled she then woke up to find Beckwith in bed with her. She alleged he commented on her body, touched her and climbed on top of her. When he continued to touch her she said she ‘tried to stop him’ but ‘couldn’t really push him off’.
She said she cannot remember if sexual intercourse took place.
Questioned by Riel Karmy-Jones QC, for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, Person A recalled an earlier incident when Beckwith attempted to kiss her after an alcohol-fuelled work event. On that day, lawyers began drinking champagne and wine on a coach at around 10am. The respondent allegedly helped to organise the event and was handing round the drinks on the bus, the tribunal heard.
In a statement to the Gazette, Ed Braham, senior partner at Freshfields, said: 'The firm takes all complaints extremely seriously. When this complaint was reported to us we instructed an external law firm to conduct a thorough investigation and we took actions in the light of the report's findings.
'We want a culture that is welcoming and allows our people to flourish, and we work hard to achieve that. We are running a firm-wide programme to ensure our values and behaviours are consistently experienced across the firm, and I am confident that we will continue to achieve change where it is needed.'
The hearing, which is due to last 10 days, continues.
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Freshfields partner groped 'exceptionally drunk' colleague, tribunal hears