The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), the regulatory body that oversees solicitors in England and Wales, is investigating reports of sexual harassment made against a former Reed Smith partner who was dismissed by the firm last year.
The partner in question was dismissed from Reed Smith’s London office in late 2017, after which the U.S. firm carried out an internal investigation into the claims, which had been made by two former trainees at the firm.
Reed Smith passed on personal details of the victims to the SRA, and while the firm maintains the disclosures were a regulatory requirement, the move prompted one of the individuals in question to threaten legal action for disclosing their identity against their will, according to RollOnFriday.
However, no formal action has been taken, and in a statement, the firm said: “We can confirm as part of the dialogue with the individual, there was an exchange of correspondence, but at no point was any formal claim made nor pursued.”
Reed Smith Europe and Middle East managing partner Tamara Box added that the firm does not tolerate harassment in any form.
“We carried out our internal investigation fully and properly as soon as we became aware of this incident, and we are confident that we took all appropriate actions. In dealing with this sensitive matter we owe duties both to our people, who are always our paramount concern, as well as to our regulator,” she said.
She noted that the SRA is empowered to police these issues and has statutory powers to require disclosure.
“This can lead to complex situations, which in this case we sought to manage in the best way possible whilst of course fully complying with our regulatory obligations,” she said.
The SRA confirmed that it is now investigating before deciding whether to take any further action.
The partner accused of harassment reportedly has joined a new firm since being dismissed by Reed Smith. In a statement, the firm said that as soon as it became aware of the allegations, it took “swift and appropriate action.”
“The safety and well-being of all of our colleagues matter greatly to us, and we are committed to providing a positive and professional workplace for all our people,” the firm added.
The episode is the latest in a string of examples of law firms taking action against partners after allegations of inappropriate behavior. In October, Clyde & Co dismissed a partner in its Manchester office following an internal investigation, while Hogan Lovells recently suspended a partner in its London office for watching an adult video at work.
Baker McKenzie also last month completed a review of its handling of a historic sexual misconduct incident, which centered around the sexual assault of a female associate by a male partner six years ago. Both of the individuals have now left the firm.