Linklaters has won an injunction limiting what its former director of Business Development and Marketing can tell the press about behind-the-scenes 'Incidents' involving women at the firm.

The firm's decision to seek to gag Frank Mellish, who sat on Linklaters' executive committee and was party to top level discussions, came after he emailed senior partners on 23 January warning them that he intended to "share my impressions of the current culture at Linklaters" with the media in a series of interviews he intended to grant in February. They would have focused on the "ongoing struggle Linklaters has with women in the workplace".

Mellish issued his threat after Linklaters terminated his role last year after just over 12 months in the job. Mr Justice Warby's order, handed down in the RCJ on 31 January after an urgent application by Linklaters, reveals that Mellish told partners he was dissatisfied with being dismissed and would highlight three matters in his interviews with the press. Warby J referred to them in the judgment as the 'Munich Incident', the 'NY Settlement' and the 'London Settlement'.

The Munich Settlement almost certainly refers to the disastrous 2014 Linklaters Oktoberfest party at which a student was sexually assaulted by a Linklaters partner, 'Thomas E', who was caught in the act by another partner who punched him in the face. This week Thomas E lost his appeal against his conviction for sexual assault after the court dismissed his argument that the sexual acts were consensual, and rejected his demands for a polygraph test. Linklaters' injunction prevents Mellish from disclosing the identity of Thomas E's victim. 

The stories behind the NY Settlement and the London Settlement are not in the public domain, but the injunction gives the gist. The section dealing with the NY Settlement restrains Mellish from revealing the identity of a Linklaters' staff member "and those about whose conduct they complained", along with "two other categories of information". The section addressing the London Settlement prevents him from disclosing the identity of a Linklaters staff member and "those about whom they made complaints", including "a former Linklaters partner".

GAG

Warby J said that Linklaters accepted that there was "a legitimate public interest in the due performance by large firms such as Linklaters of their social and moral duties towards their staff". But, he said, that did not "justify indiscriminate disclosure of otherwise sensitive confidential information".

It seems unlikely that Mellish would be so rash as to have been intending to disclose the identities of victims of alleged sexual assault (or, risk defamation proceedings by disclosing the identities of alleged perpetrators). But Linklaters may have felt that, having been forewarned, it could not risk doing nothing. And its successful application also happens to prevent Mellish from disclosing "any detail as to the internal discussions within Linklaters as to their public response to any third party interest or questions in relation to any of the above matters". Which neatly keeps Mellish from characterising for the enjoyment of the press certain sensitive, high-level conversations to which he may have been party.

Linklaters' battle to protect its reputation from its own former chief of reputation is not over, however. The injunction does not prevent Mellish from discussing "in general terms" his impressions of the current culture at Linklaters. It is also only an interim measure, and is set for review on 11 February. In the meantime, it does require him to 'fess up the names of any reporters with whom he shared information which is now protected.

A spokesman for Linklaters said, “We can confirm that the firm sought and has been granted an interim injunction in the terms set out in the judgment handed down by the court. We cannot comment further”. 

Mellish has said nothing, yet. He was not at the hearing and is thought to be in France. Meanwhile, a source who worked in the firm's Munich office in the aftermath of the Munich Incident told RollOnFriday that an unofficial injunction was put in place there. "Stonewall of silence about the issue erected", they said. "No one in the office allowed to talk about it. German hierarchy in full effect."

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Comments

Dearie 08 February 19 08:31

This is isn’t my area of expertise  so can someone explain how the interim injunction was granted essentially to protect stinky linky’s reputation (for which an injunction should not be used as shurely that is a matter for defamation?) when the chap had already given an undertaking not to identify the victims or perpetrators? 

Anonymous 08 February 19 09:19

One reputation brilliantly well protected.  We now know that Linkies have a woman problem and are prepared to spend oodles to suppress (or, most likely, delay dissemination of) the fine detail.

Anonymous 08 February 19 09:33

"This is isn’t my area of expertise  so can someone explain how the interim injunction was granted essentially to protect stinky linky’s reputation (for which an injunction should not be used as shurely that is a matter for defamation?) when the chap had already given an undertaking not to identify the victims or perpetrators? "

 

Presumably it is an interim injunction pending hearing of the full application. Story suggests that the respondent wasn't present, so when considering the balance of convenience test it was likely that the risk of harm to the applicant was considered sufficient to grant an interim injunction. That doesn't mean that that decision would be upheld at the final hearing.

Anonymous 08 February 19 09:40

Great work from Links - now I think that they (a) appear to have a problem with their culture and attitude towards women and (b) are willing to spend a lot of money to try and hush it up if someone tries to call them out on it.

Absolute pros at work here! 

Anonymous 08 February 19 13:16

How is this still ok? And yes, massive congrats to Linklaters for only making this much worse for themselves. Makes you wonder about all those ‘super bright people’ they employ. 

exLinksfromwayback 09 February 19 05:08

It appears that they still haven't managed to clean up their toxic culture.  This has been going on for decades and its time they were held to account.  The partners are a seriously toxic breed who bully each other and everyone else.

Anonymous 09 February 19 08:33

Surely these types of injunction nowadays are just a way of drawing attention to the matter and ensuring that it ends up becoming public.

Anonymous 10 February 19 11:04

Heh.  Judging by some of the downvotes, it looks like the new Links Marketing Director is up early trying to give the impression that all is well in the magenta mothership.

Anonymous 11 February 19 14:01

That's the equivalent of walking into a bank and saying "I'm coming back in 5 minutes with a gun to rob you".  Duh. Besides, it's backfired on Links and they've paid for the privilege.  Now just waiting for an MP to expose the details in session #PhilGreen

dominic savage 14 February 19 03:45

Pitiful. All staff at LL with or without equity are tacitly responsible for supporting this shower. Show some character and walk away. 

But you won't. Sure, you'll be appalled, you'll tut, but if asked whether it matters enough for you to resign...you won't.

Gutless.