Amid intense scrutiny over its handling of a historic sexual assault allegation, Baker McKenzie has asked Simmons & Simmons to lead a review of its response to the incident.
Baker McKenzie, which has been asked to provide information about the episode to the Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA), announced earlier this month that it would commission an independent review of its response to the incident, which occurred several years ago.
The SRA is an independent regulatory body in the U.K. created by the Law Society to regulate solicitors and law firms in England and Wales.
“Baker McKenzie has appointed Simmons & Simmons to conduct an independent review of this incident and how it was subsequently handled. The review will also look at and review all our complaints policies and procedures to ensure our employees are protected and have a voice,” a Baker McKenzie representative said. “We will follow the recommendations of the review and will take all appropriate action. As a firm, our values of inclusion and diversity are extremely important to us and we are committed to ensuring the welfare of all employees.”
The allegations center around the alleged sexual assault of a female associate by a male partner, who left the firm after the claims came to light at the beginning of the month.
The associate received a payout from Baker McKenzie and entered into a confidentiality agreement before leaving the firm. The partner in question, whose identity is widely known but cannot be published, has left the firm but is still listed on the firm’s website.
Law firms are required to alert the SRA promptly if they believe their lawyers have broken the SRA’s code of conduct. The regulator has said that it will seek further information before deciding on appropriate action, and has confirmed that it is in discussions with Baker McKenzie about the incident.
Last year, research by Law.com U.K. affiliate Legal Week found that nearly two-thirds of female lawyers have experienced some form of sexual harassment while working at a law firm, with more than half experiencing it on more than one occasion. A number of female lawyers also spoke anonymously to Legal Week about their experiences of sexual harassment in the profession.
Last week, a former Linklaters partner in Germany was sentenced to three years and three months in prison for sexual assault, while earlier this month Dentons confirmed that a partner who had been suspended following allegations of inappropriate behavior has now left the firm after an internal review found his behavior “fell well below expectations.”