The Dutch will sort it out.
Morne van der Merwe, the former managing partner of Baker McKenzie's Johannesburg office, is leaving the firm following the mysterious episode in which he quietly stepped down from his management roles, with Dutch partners taking over the running of the South Africa operation.
Baker McKenzie's Joburg office has been in the news after RollOnFriday's bombshell report in which numerous former lawyers spoke of the disturbing treatment they said they had endured during van der Merwe's tenure.
Former trainees, associates and several partners gave examples of being screamed at, scapegoated for management missteps, pushed to resign, and humiliated.
Several said they had attempted to alert global management to the issues over the years to no avail, and spoke of their fears that the latest internal investigation, prompted by another whistleblower's complaint, would result in a whitewash.
However, when RollOnFriday presented the firm with excerpts of the lawyers' accounts it was explicit in its recognition that something was amiss, and expressed its determination to take action.
Esteban Raventos, an Executive Committee member at Baker McKenzie, said, "We are deeply concerned about the workplace and cultural issues in our Johannesburg office and are resolute as a global team to put this right".
Now Bakers has confirmed that van der Merwe is departing the firm, although it would not be drawn on the reasons why.
“Morne van der Merwe has stepped down as a Principal of Baker McKenzie and, with effect from 01 September 2021, as a director and shareholder of Baker McKenzie Inc in Johannesburg. He will leave the Firm on 14 September 2021", the firm said in a statement.
RollOnFriday previously revealed that the Johannesburg office was being led by partners from Amsterdam while van der Morne was off duty, and Bakers has confirmed that Dutch partners Erik Scheer and Mirjam de Blecourt are 'supporting' the Johannesburg Management Committee as part of a "transitional leadership team".
A former BMSA lawyer told RollOnFriday that, "I, like many others, left BMSA as a direct result" of "bullying and abuse", and that while the firm in her opinion "ought to have taken steps" a long time ago, the overhaul "presents an opportunity for the firm to rebuild".