Bakers' broom hits another office.
The firm said that it was rebuilding its management team in the wake of its findings, and indicated that it has also sanctioned other members of staff.
Kirsty Wilson, a member of Baker McKenzie's Executive Committee and its Global Inclusion, Diversity & Equity Committee Chair, told RollOnFriday, “We have completed a thorough review of the incidents and broader issues raised in our former colleague's email”.
“Where we were able to identify individuals responsible for specific incidents, appropriate action has been taken”.
Wilson confirmed that "a new management team will take our Belgium offices forward” and that “as part of this, we have agreed with Daniel Fesler that he will permanently step down from the role of Managing Partner and leave the Firm. We thank him for his service and commitment to clients over the past 30 years”.
Fesler had already temporarily stepped down from his leadership position pending the completion of the firm's investigation into claims of racism in its Brussels office.
The probe was triggered by a Baker McKenzie lawyer who dropped a bombshell when she quit, using her farewell email to lay out various incidents of racism which she alleged occurred during her time at the Brussels office.
In her email, headed “I am not leaving because of my kids :)”, the black associate stated that a “senior-someone asked me if the family picture hanging in my office was a rap album cover”.
Setting out "concrete examples" of the racism she said she had experienced, the lawyer recounted that "a colleague used the N word and was backed up by another colleagues [sic] who told me that 'he doesn't mean it in a bad way'".
The lawyer, whom RollOnFriday agreed not to name, described how a colleague “touched my hair (out of curiosity?)”, and said she was told that her Baker McKenzie e-mail address only included part of her last name “because it would otherwise be confusing for clients”.
The associate said she was also “yelled at by a staff member because I made comments to management about the fact that blackface had been used during a Sinterklass event”.
In addition to racism, the lawyer implied that she had been on the receiving end of regressive attitudes towards motherhood.
"A senior-someone asked if I was going to have a second child (which is something you never ask)", she wrote, adding that when she applied for a role in Dubai "I was asked how I would manage in my situation (this is the word that was used to describe the fact that I have kids)".
Wilson said, “We are incredibly sorry and sincerely regret that our former Belgium colleague, or any colleague, has had this experience”.
"We are absolutely committed to continue building a positive, respectful and truly inclusive culture in Belgium and across the Firm so that all of our people feel they belong”, she added.
Baker McKenzie’s drastic response mirrors its decision to clear out and completely rebuild its South Africa management after RollOnFriday uncovered an endemic bullying problem in the Johannesburg office.