The Solicitors Regulation Authority could be forced to pay up to £3m in legal fees after three of the four defendants in the high profile Baker McKenzie prosecution were cleared by the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal last week.
Baker McKenzie is seeking a portion of its costs from the SRA, saying it has racked up £304,192 of legal fees from 15 April 2020 to the present day. The firm, which is represented by Kingsley Napley, said it will pay its own costs to December 2019 when the case was adjourned.
For the firm, Patricia Robertson QC told the tribunal that the SRA should have withdrawn allegations against Baker McKenzie following the adjournment. ‘The costs of the resumed hearing could have been avoided if the SRA had properly assessed the merit of continuing,’ she said.
Meanwhile, former Baker McKenzie partner Thomas Cassels is seeking full costs of £1.6m + VAT from the regulator. Richard Coleman QC, for Cassels, said some allegations against his client had not been properly brought, some contained ‘obvious factual errors’, and others had been ‘over prosecuted’.
The repondents' total cost applications total around £3m.
The SRA is also seeking a costs order against Baker McKenzie after criticising the way the firm originally responded to the prosecution. Robertson said the regulator’s request was ‘without merit, bad law and must be dismissed’.
Last week, Baker McKenzie’s former London managing partner was fined £55,000 for serious professional misconduct. The tribunal found that Gary Senior behaved in an inappropriate manner when he tried to kiss and embrace a junior colleague in 2012. It also found that Senior improperly sought, by reason of his position of seniority within the firm, to influence the investigation.
All allegations against the firm, former partner Thomas Cassels and former HR director Martin Blackburn were found not proved. The three respondents were accused of allowing Senior to improperly influence or seek to influence the investigation by reason of his position of seniority within the firm.
The costs hearing continues today.