Almost three months after fining Baker McKenzie’s former managing partner £55,000 for professional misconduct, the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal has published its full reasoning.
In a 113-page judgment, the tribunal finds that the conduct of Gary Senior – former London managing partner at the international firm – in a hotel room in 2012 represented an ‘extraordinary abuse of position’.
Senior was found to have attempted to hug and kiss a junior fee earner, referred to as ‘Person A’, in the early hours after a graduate recruitment event.
‘The unequal balance of authority was critical to the context in which the incident took place,' the judgment states. 'The first respondent was in a very senior position in the firm and Person A was a junior fee-earner in his hotel room, having remained there at his instigation.’
It added that the harm caused to Person A had been ‘devastating’ and Senior's behaviour had caused her career to take 'an entirely different path'.
The SDT also found that Senior ‘clearly' tried to influence the subsequent investigation into his conduct and, at one point, made a ‘blatant attempt to undermine [the] credibility’ of Person A.
However, the firm’s investigation into Senior’s conduct was found to have been ‘sufficiently effective’ and neither Baker McKenzie, former partner Thomas Cassels, or former HR director Martin Blackburn were found to have committed professional misconduct.
‘The investigation had not been perfect and it could have been handled better in some ways, examples of which are referred to elsewhere in this judgement. However, the investigation was sufficiently effective and the way it was handled did not amount to professional misconduct,’ the tribunal said.
It added that it was unable to find evidence of a decision taken that would not otherwise have been taken as a result of Senior’s improper attempts to influence proceedings.
However, the tribunal did not criticise the Solicitors Regulation Authority for prosecuting the cleared respondents. It said the regulator had ‘plainly not acted unreasonably in bringing or continuing with the case’ against Cassels, and that Blackburn had ‘made mistakes and misjudgements’.
Senior was fined £55,000 and ordered to pay costs of £48,000. No other costs orders were made.