09 January 2018
Dentons has placed a partner on a leave of absence and banned him from the premises after it was made aware of allegations that he engaged in inappropriate sexual behaviour with female employees.

The solicitor allegedly behaved inappropriately while he was a partner at Scottish firm Maclay Murray & Spens, which merged with Dentons last year.

A source told RollOnFriday that she and a number of other women approached the MMS HR team with complaints about the partner's inappropriate sexual behaviour. She said she was asked by the MMS HR team "if I really wanted to take him on" with a formal complaint. Calling its response "disgraceful", she said, "I was advised to just get on with things. It was brushed under the carpet and he’s still in his position". 

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However, Dentons suspended the partner last week after RollOnFriday approached it about the allegations. A spokesman said, "Last week we became aware that reports of inappropriate behaviour were made against a Maclay Murray and Spens partner about 15 months ago, more than a year before MMS's merger with Dentons. No formal complaint was made at the time or has been made subsequently, but we now understand the partner was warned about his future conduct".

He said, "Dentons places huge importance on ensuring that we create a safe, open and respectful workplace for all our employees, and we are taking these reports very seriously. Upon becoming aware of these reports, we launched an internal investigation and the partner concerned is now on a leave of absence and will not be attending the office while the investigation is ongoing. We will be making no further comment until the investigation has concluded and all parties have been informed of the outcome".

The source's decision to speak to RollOnFriday, and Dentons' reaction, show the legal profession is not immune to the ripples of Harvey Weinstein's downfall and the #MeToo movement. It is also evidence that alleged victims' voices, particularly when amplified, can affect change. If you would like to speak in confidence, get in touch.

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Comments

Anonymous 19 Jan 18

Hopefully, Denton will handle this matter significantly better than they did with Bina Hale case!!!

Anonymous 19 Jan 18

What does it take for these people to take their eye off revenue, and pay more attention to inappropriate behaviour?

Anonymous 19 Jan 18

"No formal complaint was made at the time or has been made subsequently" - sounds like RoF is making a mountain out of a mole hill to drum up more #metoo stories in the legal sector.

Anonymous 19 Jan 18

Anon 09:22, it seems strange then that the partner in question was suspended if it is a "mole hill" story. That decision won't have been made lightly. I think it speaks more to the opaqueness of law firm HR culture.

Anonymous 19 Jan 18

The victims should complain to the Police and to the SRA as the conduct complained about goes beyond being merely an internal HR matter. Presumably the HR department at Maclays reported the matter to the Board of Management. Why did Maclays Board not act at the time to suspend/dismiss given such conduct could only bring the firm into disrepute? Hopefully Dentons are now doing what Maclays should have done 15 months ago.......

Anonymous 19 Jan 18

A lot turns on the nature of the "inappropriate sexual behaviour with female employees".

Having one or more of affairs with colleagues in other departments, by way of hypothetical example, is not a police or even disciplinary matter.

Sexually assaulting female employees is both.

Roll On Friday 19 Jan 18

Unfortunately in days of yore and yesteryear you could not complain as you nobody would employ a troublemaker -you were just fodder for clients and partners -then you get older, smarter and hopefully wiser to say no I'm not putting up with this- but at that stage nobody is interested as you are too old - anon 09.22

Anonymous 19 Jan 18

Anon: 9.22am - I take the word "formal" to be the key word in that sentence you quoted. Does not mean that a complaint was not raised...

Anonymous 19 Jan 18

Good on Dentons for taking the matter (and their responsibilities) seriously and doing the correct thing, where their predecessors "bottled it"! I hope the HR person who revived the initial report is also held to account.

Anonymous 19 Jan 18

The legal profession is certainly not immune to such behaviour. In fact, it’s one of the worst for this type of behaviour I’ve ever encountered. Too many stories about it, and other misconduct, just being swept under the carpet because the partner is a top fee-earner. Not any more.

Anonymous 19 Jan 18

(Reposting this one last time) - 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.

Anonymous 19 Jan 18

All those saying "well done Dentons" (or some variation thereof) need to look at last week's article on the firm and how an EAT found that Dentons had destroyed evidence and presented a case that lacked any credibility.

Anonymous 20 Jan 18

I work for a Law firm and sadly heard stories 2nd hand by individuals who complained to HR about a Partners PA being too friendly and was told "it didn't happen".

Anonymous 20 Jan 18

Dentons should have uncovered this issue during its merger with MMS, and if it did not, it did a sloppy job on due diligence. Dentons' response is an attempt to save their own arse after being called out on the issue and an attempt to avoid another PR disaster similar to the Bina Hale case. What other skeletons will be found in Dentons' closet from all of its other mergers and overseas offices?

Anonymous 21 Jan 18

20 years ago in an Australian firm, it was routine to put the junior secretaries in taxis towards the end of a drinks night to ensure their safety away from the clutches of the male senior partners.

Anonymous 21 Jan 18

To pick up on a few of the other points about a "formal" complaint being raised, it seems clear the mms were aware and did nothing and that is key. There could be a whole host of reasons for not making a formal complaint - lack of support, career concerns etc. One wonders if those women reported theft from mms if mms would have chosen not to pursue that either. I suspect that mms would not have exercised any discretion in those circumstances. Quite frankly, it seems like it didn't suit them to investigate and it didn't suit their bottom line to get rid of a partner. Given his divisional heads were board members, it's clear this was known and ignored for some time at the highest level.

Anonymous 31 Jan 18

A partner having one or more consensual affairs simultaneously may indeed not be an offence but when it happens in work time and on office premises it contributes to a toxic working environment

Anonymous 02 Feb 18

As a solicitor in the Scottish marketplace, I've heard the rumours and they go back further than his time at MMS. If a partner engages in behaviour that would be regarded as gross misconduct resulting in dismissal under a policy which specifically states it applies to partners as well as other members of staff, then they should be shown the door. No ifs, no buts, no special treatment and no talking his way out of it. End of.

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