The Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal will deliver its verdict in one of the biggest cases it has heard, involving global firm Baker McKenzie, next month.
Gary Senior, former London managing partner, is accused of trying to embrace and kiss a junior associate in 2012, despite receiving no indication of consent. He denies misconduct.
Thomas Cassels and Martin Blackburn, who were with Baker McKenzie in 2012 as a partner and head of HR respectively, are being prosecuted along with the firm by the SRA in relation to the investigation that began when Person A made a complaint. They deny the allegations made against them by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.
The substantive hearing was effectively put on hold before Christmas due to the health of one party. It resumed last week with counsel for the four respondents appearing remotely. Today ended with Andrew Tabachnik QC, for the SRA, responding to points raised in the closing submissions of counsel for the four respondents.
Tabachnik said the SRA’s issue on an email exchange between Senior and other partners was that he was ‘invited into discussions about managing the presentation of his circumstances and sanction to Person A, something we say he should be kept a million miles away from and could readily have resolved that particular aspect without his input’.
If the firm was in any doubt about the scope of the SRA’s case, ‘it could have sought clarification of the particulars. Not only did it not, but it pleaded a defence which squarely addressed the "seek to influence" allegations’.
Tabachnik said the SRA did not change its case or move the goalposts. ‘The purpose of pleadings is to put the other parties on notice of the case being advanced. Is anyone not on notice here? Did I ask a question someone could not answer because they were taken by surprise? Of course not. The respondents were supremely well prepared. They submitted very substantiated witness statements. They all knew the documents extremely well. I do not recall any “Gosh, I never thought about that” response.’
Tabachnik said the SRA had acted with ‘extreme propriety and care throughout this prosecution notwithstanding the task of dealing with four extremely well-resourced respondents and their copious legal teams.’
Jane Martineau, chair of the tribunal panel, said the SDT will deliver its findings on 12 June.