Try as it might, Willkie Farr couldn't work out why its lawyers were leaving.
A Willkie Farr partner's bullying behaviour has, it is claimed, driven at least four associates out of the firm's London office. On one occasion an ambulance was called after one of the partner's victims broke down.
The partner is still there, while lawyers have quit, been signed off with anxiety and received settlements from the firm, sources claimed. Several sources accused management of taking no meaningful action despite multiple complaints and incidents.
A spokesperson said, "there are inaccuracies in your story", but declined to specify what they were.
The partner, 'Tyranto', works in the firm's London office. RollOnFriday is not identifying the partner because sources were unwilling to go on the record with their own identities, citing their relatively junior positions in their firms and the effect doing so might have on their careers.
Tyranto's bullying was described as including intimidating behaviour such as slamming doors and shouting, as well as accusations that targeted lawyers were incompetent and did not care enough about their work. Sources gave an example of Tyranto criticising a lawyer for prioritising a serious family emergency over their work on Tyranto's matter, even though the lawyer had arranged cover.
"The line that was spun was '[Tyranto] just cares about the deal', but I’ve never met anyone who cares about the deal like that", said one ex-Willkie Farr solicitor.
The bullying was also public, which resulted in a senior lawyer who shared a room with one of Tyranto's victims being left "open mouthed" at the treatment meted out to them.
An associate who has now left the firm said that before they joined Willkie Farr, a partner at another firm warned them, "Don’t join, [Tyranto's] toxic". After leaving, the associate said they realised the experience had traumatised them.
"I’ve worked for, and with, plenty of difficult people, but there’s a difference between being difficult and being a bully", said one ex-Willkie Farr solicitor.
Lawyers suffered from anxiety as a result of the bullying, said multiple sources, and on one occasion an ambulance was called to the office after a solicitor had a breakdown.
"I believe it's only a matter of time before someone kills themselves", said a source, adding that the firm's "excuse that it's just the way American firms are is total bollocks. This is bullying on another level".
Sources said that evidence of bullying was forwarded to the management of the London office, but "nothing was done".
One of the latest solicitors to leave because of Tyranto's bullying was paid a sum "approaching the six figure bracket" after they raised a grievance, claimed a source.
Several years ago three associates left in the same week having cited Tyranto's bullying, one of whom received a settlement after raising a victimisation grievance, RollOnFriday understands.
In response to a fresh wave of departures this year, Willkie Farr arranged to bring in a strategic consultant to speak to lawyers to determine the reasons for staff leaving, said a source. However, Covid led to the review being postponed.
The external audit was sought despite "numerous" complaints on file and exit interviews which name Tyranto specifically, said the source, as the firm was "scared to deal" with the partner.
When further details were provided by RollOnFriday to Willkie Farr, the firm said in a statement that it had undertaken a "comprehensive and transparent 360 degree feedback project across the London office as part of an ongoing initiative”. The firm said it would not comment on internal personnel matters or former associates, but said it took the allegations “extremely seriously”.