Baker McKenzie’s former London managing partner committed serious professional misconduct when he tried to embrace and kiss a junior associate in 2012, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has found. Allegations against the firm itself and two other senior figures were found not proved.
Giving its verdict this morning, the tribunal found that Gary Senior committed serious professional misconduct by behaving in an inappropriate manner towards ‘Person A’ when he was in a position of seniority. It also found that Senior improperly sought, by reason of his position of seniority within the firm, to influence the investigation.
The tribunal said the findings arose from the ‘particular factual matrix’ of the case.
The third allegation – that Senior failed promptly or at all to report his conduct to the Solicitors Regulation Authority – was found not proved to the requisite standard.
All allegations against the firm, former partner Thomas Cassels and former HR director Martin Blackburn were found not proved.
The tribunal said Cassels ‘committed an error of judgment in the manner in which the investigation [into Senior] was carried out’ but found no conduct by him that amounted to professional misconduct.
On Blackburn, the tribunal said the evidence made it clear the former HR head was not a decision-maker in respect of the investigation into Senior’s conduct.
Blackburn, Cassels and Baker McKenzie were accused by the SRA of allowing Senior to improperly influence or seek to influence the investigation by reason of his position of seniority within the firm.
A spokesperson for Baker McKenzie said: ‘The firm has co-operated fully with the SRA throughout this process. We are pleased that no finding of professional misconduct has been made against Baker McKenzie.
'We are a different firm from a decade ago with new leadership, an enhanced purpose and a commitment to diversity and inclusion. This is reflected by the actions we have taken and policies we have introduced that ensure that all of our people, regardless of seniority, feel empowered to call out wrong or inappropriate behaviour.
'Following this incident, we have also enhanced our internal policies, including around corporate governance. Something like this must never happen again.’
Gary Senior said: ‘I bitterly regret what happened in 2012. The matter was not covered up by the firm in 2012. An investigation was carried out by the firm involving a number of senior partners. At the time I believed I behaved appropriately in that investigation while cooperating with them and no comment to the contrary was made to me by those conducting the process. I cannot make any further comment until I have studied the tribunal’s reasons for deciding as they have, as they did not give any reasons for their decision today.’