A former Baker McKenzie boss who admitted acting inappropriately when he was alone with a junior associate in a hotel room has denied ‘buttering up’ a colleague investigating the incident.
Gary Senior, the firm’s London managing partner for eight years, was cross-examined on the third day of a Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal hearing over alleged sexual harassment dating from 2012. 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.
Andrew Tabachnik QC, for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, told Senior yesterday that he had been described as a ‘notorious micromanager’ and accused him of micro-managing the investigation.
The tribunal heard that, days after being informed of the complaint, Senior suggested in an email that Person A could work at home for 18 months while he served out his term as managing partner.
Senior said he was trying to come up with options that could be put to Person A ‘that would make an attractive alternative if she was simply not willing to come back to the office and work as normal’.
During Senior's eight years as managing partner he said that on two occasions he was asked to speak to partners about alleged misconduct. 'I was not involved in the investigations. That’s something where we had a good HR director who would handle that’.
Two days after Person A submitted a complaint, Senior was told there would be an investigation. Tabachnik said: ‘Whether you have been involved in an investigation of this sort or not, it’s fairly obvious that the alleged perpetrator cannot be seen to be directing or managing the process of the investigation into their own misconduct… The alleged perpetrator should have nothing whatsoever to do with the firm’s decision or response to the alleged victim.’
‘Unless asked - which I was, on occasion, in this case’, Senior replied.
Tabachnik said Senior was kept informed of developments and accused him of ‘micro managing the process of others managing Person A’.
The tribunal heard that Senior praised Blackburn’s professionalism in an email to him. ‘It reads like a blatant attempt to butter up one of your investigators,’ Tabachnik said. Senior said he felt bad for the position he put his colleagues in: ‘I had complete faith in their professionalism to do the right thing. I’m just conveying that. I do not need to butter Martin up.’
Earlier, the former London chief told the tribunal that there was an overlap and differences between his and Person A’s version of events.
Even if Senior’s version of events was correct, Tabachnick said, there was 'nonetheless a breach of your duty to act with integrity and your duty to maintain public confidence in the profession’.
Senior replied: ‘Those are terms that have a particular meaning within the context of professional discipline and I’m not in a position to judge that.’
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.
The hearing continues.