Lawyers have spoken up about sexual predators at their firms. 

Last week RollOnFriday published allegations that K&L Gates had let down female members of staff who had complained that a partner in the London office had sexually harassed them. 

Following that story, multiple sources, who wish to remain anonymous, accused another K&L Gates partner of sexual misconduct. They claimed the lawyer, who works in a European office, had a previous history of "sex scandals" before being recruited by K&L Gates as a partner. One source claimed he seemed to be "untouchable" and that he was still continuing his "Harvey-style behaviour".

And in London a former student said that during her vacation scheme at K&L Gates, a partner "offered to give me a training contract if I agreed to have sex with him that evening". The firm did not respond to a request for comment.
 

  Welcome drinks were a bit unnerving. 


More lawyers shared their experiences via email, comments and on the RollOnFriday discussion board. While many reported that they had enjoyed a molestation-free career, others said they had not been so lucky:

 

 

"I reported an indecent assault which was probably attempted rape by a partner to HR in 2001. I was given training on how to manage the partner in question in a better way going forward."

"
[Partner at large UK firm] is a seriously dangerous sexual predator, who loves to abuse his position of power and authorityEveryone in the partnership knows it".
 
"I've only been aware of 2 instances in over 20 years, when I was a trainee (1) disgusting partner tried to rape an associate at an off-site...she was in pieces but thankfully would not let it go and he was eventually sacked (had form apparently) (2) senior partner brazenly caressed the @rse of a very attractive associate, twice, at a Christmas party (beginning of the evening). I asked her why she didn't slap him or report him and she said she'd had worse before becoming a lawyer and it just wasn't worth the hassle."
 
"There was a partner in my old team who never spoke to me, unless I had a female trainee, in which case he'd show up regularly at around 5 o'clock with need of 'an extra body for a late night urgent bit of work'. Sleazy fucker, but nothing was ever done about it."
 
"I have...been belittled in a professional context in a way that would never happen to a man, told that blatantly misogynist clients just have to be endured, quite obviously passed over for opportunities which blokes get offered, and generally heard some awful things said. While women don’t get equal opportunities and treatment, harassment and abuse of power will also continue."
 
"I don’t think any woman I know thinks anything has improved since we started working. The same things are still being said - 'in 20 years time, the dinosaurs will be gone and all will be better'. I don’t see that much has changed in the last 20 years so I genuinely doubt it..."
 
"We all know the Weinsteins of the legal industry in the City. There are a fair few of them. Each one of us may not know all but we know at least one and then some more. "

 

 

 
"The time I was in a partner's office and, during a conference call with a client, he leered at me, pulled out his penis and started masturbating like it was no big deal. I quit soon after. I would say that incident was a contributory factor."
 
"At my first firm, 10 years ago, the real estate head and his sidekick (both married) were each sh@gging their secretaries. This was not only not hidden, but at client drinks said secretaries would be invited and said partners would snog them in front of their clients. At said drinks, fit trainee girls would also be invited, plied continuously with drink and then propositioned by either the partners or their clients who knew that this 'entertainment' was being supplied for their kicks. I was a trainee bloke at the time, and incredibly it was so brazen that it actually seemed normal."
 
"A couple of us in my trainee intake were harassed by a female partner. Whilst neither of us felt threatened, we both stopped attending dept drinks to avoid getting into an awkward situation which might have hindered our careers. I needn't have worried tbh as my inability to carry out any tasks to the required standard and in the necessary time frames were probably the more likely reasons for my lack of career progression."
 
"One partner at my old firm who basically had had sex with half the women at the firm. If you wanted an easy life in his dept, there was one way to guarantee it."
 
"I’ve had senior female partners and consultants say to me (knowing full well what was going on) 'Oh he’s lonely', 'Just play the game', 'If you can’t handle the heat...', 'You need a thicker skin'."
 
"I had a partner offer to make me a partner in his team if I became his mistress. Considering that I was only 4 years PQE at this point I was never going to buy that. He also told me one day in a meeting in his office that it was his fantasy to take me into Prada and pay to dress me up like Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman and then treat me like his whore." 
 

That partner appears to have joined in the discussion:
 

"When I was in PP we had a strict selection criteria when instructing Counsel. Let's be honest. If you are going to spend 3 days sat behind someone in Court at least you want a decent arse to look at."
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Comments

Anonymous 20 October 17 09:31

This just isn't good enough. We, the legal industry, are failing over half the number of people who want to work in this world.

Anonymous 20 October 17 09:56

I definitely think it has got worse, not better, partly because management has become so very inactive. When I was a junior lawyer, a male partner lunged at various women at a party, and when one made a formal complaint, he called her into a meeting to explain how the complaint would damage her career. When the managing partner heard, he apparently had to be physically restrained from going and punching the creepy partner, who was fired the next day. The whole thing may be a bit undignified, but it was really heartening as a young woman to know that management felt that strongly about anyone behaving so appallingly to women and we all named and shamed the creepy partner (and some expressed regret that the managing partner didn't actually hit him). More recently, I hear a lot of "that is just how he is", "let's not give X a female trainee, we all know what he's like", but no comeuppance. As a rather small middle-aged woman, I would not be much use, but I am coming around to the idea that a little more punching in the face might be in order on the part of management, rather than tutting in the corner.

Anonymous 20 October 17 10:01

Surely, the SRA ought to do more to allow this type of harassment to be reported.

The most effective way to deter this type of behaviour in the future would be to strike off the partners involved.

It would destroy thar partner's careers and, likely their marrage and family life, but frankly anyone who "offered .. a training contract if I agreed to ... sex .. that evening" deserves everything he/she gets.

Anonymous 20 October 17 10:19

I worked for a EP who once bragged to me that on a visit to the Isle of Man, he became so excited by the trainee sitting next to him on the plane that he "had to" take himself off behind the little curtain thing and wank into a bucket. I suppose, in fairness to him, the object of his desire remained none the wiser.

Bit of an odd fish, this one. I had a drink with him just before Christmas a few years ago, and asked him whether he's finished his Christmas shopping. 'Yeah' he said, before adding 'Took my ages to find the present my nephew wanted'. I asked him what is was. 'Oh, a stab vest' he said casually, as though it was the most normal thing in the world.

Anonymous 20 October 17 10:24

I am still gobsmacked that my group not only didn't take action against the managing associate who had form for hitting on young female associates and then taking umbrage when they rejected him, but then went on to make him a partner. He is still doing the same thing, and yet they are not doing a single thing.

And he's just one of many, just in my group let alone the rest of the firm. When are partners going to show the integrity our firm claims is one of their values and actually do something about it? It's a magic circle firm for god's sake. They are all wealthy. Yet they seem to be prepared to sacrifice the careers of their female associates to protect their pockets.

Anonymous 20 October 17 10:52

Last quote obviously made up by a wishful thinker. You can't see anyone's arse when they're wearing robes....

Anonymous 20 October 17 10:52

I used to work in the insolvency department of a west end law firm where the woman CEO's modus operandi was to whore us out to clients in order to win and retain business. The insolvency world is creepy and lecherous enough as it is, but for this pimp CEO it was all about securing the instruction, and degrading and embarrassing us in front of the clients in the process. Eeeeew. I grew anxious and had severe panic attacks whenever I was asked (forced) to attend a client function, and whenever I raised my concerns with the CEO she simply dismissed them and said if I wasn't happy I could get a job elsewhere; which is what I eventually did. In hindsight, I should have reported her to the SRA as she is clearly not a fit and proper person to be CEO of a (self-proclaimed) leading west end law firm, nor indeed any law firm. My advice to any female solicitors who are harassed in ANY way is to report the offender to the SRA.

Anonymous 20 October 17 11:04

Female trainees and junior associates at Jones Day - the next time it happens, don't leave, don't just go to HR, go to the Police. There has already been a police caution of a lawyer there: http://www.rollonfriday.com/Default.aspx?TabId=382&FirmId=30&Id=4744&fromTab=68&currentIndex=0
If they put pressure on you to leave, go to an employment tribunal and shout it from the rooftops.

Anonymous 20 October 17 11:33

I used to work in the London office of a US firm where two of the partners had a competition to see how many female partners, associates and PAs they could 'bag'. Both subsequently left after management applied a "3 strikes and you're out" policy against them. Both are plying their trades elsewhere in the City apparently with similar effects. Both were seen as rainmakers. Both behaved as if they were untouchable.

Anonymous 20 October 17 13:24

My suggestion would be to out all these people. Name and shame, that's the only way this will get better. There was a partner at BLP who had form of this kind of thing previously, everyone knew but he was still employed. If you know that someone else has also suffered as you have, speak up. It' difficult I know but important that these stories aren't just, "we all know who it is"...

Anonymous 20 October 17 14:13

Re 09:52 comment concerning the woman CEO. There is only one I know of, and her reputation precedes her. Has a penchant for booze and fiddling expenses apparently. Shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near a law firm. Shame on her employers who appear happy to turn a blind eye. What a very sad state of affairs.

Anonymous 20 October 17 14:38

This is actually quite depressing. Am I being quite naive when I think that this doesn't happen in other industries?

Anonymous 20 October 17 14:38

It became so normal in my old team that everyone in the firm knew it was happening, HR knew, the managing partner/senior partner knew, but as the partners involved were the rainmakers, everyone shrugged their shoulders. Female lawyers learned to play the game, make themselves unattractive somehow (being loud and questioning them was often a good way) or just told not to work in/with that group if you could help it.

I've heard its only gone downhill since.

Roll On Friday 20 October 17 18:57

"In hindsight, I should have reported her to the SRA as she is clearly not a fit and proper person to be CEO of a (self-proclaimed) leading west end law"!. You still can.

Anonymous 23 October 17 10:49

Everyone here commenting that it's happening and that they know it is but without doing anything about it is exactly why predators do it and why Weinstein and others have gotten away with it for so long. I am extremely fortunate not to have encountered this type of behaviour in my career but I would like to think that I would be principled enough to report it to the highest possible levels if it had. To do anything else is tantamount to supporting the perpetrators.

Anonymous 23 October 17 12:44

@9:49 The HR bod who tried to tackle it in our group mysteriously disappeared. When management is aware and still doing nothing other than protecting the perps, it's no wonder people aren't game to make more of a fuss. This is going to take proper leadership from the partners.

Anonymous 24 October 17 11:04

@9.49 Your comments indicate just how messed up the system is. Don't you understand that whenever people do report, it is they, not the person who is committing these acts, who is treated like the criminal? I reported the sexual harassment that I encountered and was basically told - you will take this no further and if you do there will be consequences i.e. I would be asked to leave. I did take it further. I lost my job. I sued and was offered silence money. So you think others who experienced the same thing who knew about what happened to me were going to risk everything they had worked so hard to achieve. Your comments are naïve, misguided and completely without heart.

Anonymous 03 November 17 15:47

It's not just partners who sexually harass others. Plenty of back office staff do it too, and it's just dismissed, and the accusers have to deal with the consequences.

Anonymous 16 January 18 18:20

Hi, RoF commenters. After getting permission from RoF top brass, I am posting this to ask if any readers would be willing - in confidence and completely anonymously - to share their experiences on sexual harassment in law firms for an article I am writing for the FT. I have already heard some pretty horrendous stories and the paper has written plenty on the subject, but I am looking to strengthen the article with more input (and without ripping off this website!). Anything ending up in print would be entirely on your terms. Thoughts on the SRA's role and on the training model at law firms also gratefully received. You can reach me at barney.thompson@ft.com. Thanks, and sorry to disturb your posting!