the horror

Bakers' South Africa management contemplates the latest hire.


Baker McKenzie's Johannesburg office was run by an old boy's club which "bullied", "demeaned" and "degraded" those who worked there, former staff have told RollOnFriday.

The firm has vowed to overhaul the office's management, a week after RollOnFriday revealed that Morne van der Merwe, the firm's erstwhile South Africa Managing Partner, had stepped down from the role.

Baker McKenzie announced that "the global leadership team has been carefully reviewing issues relating to the management of our Johannesburg office for several months", and said there would be "a change in leadership" at the nine-year-old office.

Without providing an explanation for the upheaval or naming individuals, it said "we are in the process of implementing change in management, as well as appointing a new HR lead".

Bakers said it would also be "listening to and reviewing people’s concerns", and insisted that "the firm takes extremely seriously any concerns when they are raised".

Requesting anonymity due to their fear of professional repercussions in the relatively small South African legal sector, former Baker McKenzie trainees, associates and partners spoke to RollOnFriday about their time in the firm's 43-person Johannesburg office.

They told of damage to their mental health which resulted in breakdowns, medication and counselling; to their career and reputation, which resulted in some leaving law altogether; and to their personal relationships, with at least one lawyer blaming the breakdown of his marriage on his time at the firm. Many of them remained furious at what they perceived as Baker McKenzie's enduring failure to tackle the issues.

Many of the lawyers described a similar trajectory, where they were treated poorly and excluded from the 'inner circle', and, once they had indicated their desire to leave, found themselves being accused of wrongdoing, and humiliated.

'Alice', a Candidate Attorney (the South African equivalent of a trainee) in Baker McKenzie's Johannesburg office, said she "suffered emotional abuse, severe bullying from the top employees, and faced sexist comments non stop to the point where I had a breakdown".

In a complaint she handed to the firm, Alice described how she was dropped from a matter when she was unable to leave hospital where she was receiving an intravenous drip for a health condition. "I was called several times to come back to take notes for a call", but, "I could not leave with the IV only halfway done. When I got back to the office, I was thrown off the matter".

Email correspondence between Alice and a senior associate gave the impression of an office in which junior lawyers could be treated like servants and swatted away when they requested help.

On one occasion, the senior associate, who is now a partner at another international firm, sent Alice a blank email at 12:01pm with the subject heading, "Please get me food now".

A single demand to fetch food may be forgiven in a busy firm environment where juniors occasionally get saddled with menial chores in the heat of a completion, but there was evidence that an aggressive tone was frequently adopted.

In other exchanges, the senior associate wrote in response to Alice’s apparently reasonable queries, "excuse me????", “what was ceded in the Borrower cession??????????", and, “I HAVE HIGHLIGHED THE BELOW what am i asking you to do".

The senior associate may have taken her lead from management. Alice said that whenever she raised a question in her end of seat review, the senior partner supervising the review told her to "stop talking and behave".

Alice was criticised in her review on the basis that she did "not consistently engage and use the structures that exist in the office to deal with the problems and concerns you had". However, as other former Bakers SA lawyers noted, since the individuals being complained about were usually senior people in the office, seeking redress from them and their compliant HR operatives was not perceived as a particularly effective or attractive remedy.

"I went through hell", said Alice, who now works at another prestigious firm.

'Tom' joined Bakers' Joburg office as a partner from a well-regarded firm. “When I started working with Morne, the initial conflict was around my approach to matters compared to his approach to matters. Suddenly I was being treated very much as an associate", he said.

Tom claimed he was not allowed to communicate directly with clients, and instead had to place his emails in a senior partner's drafts folder – "and he would send them out, under his name", said the lawyer.

"There was a deep unhappiness in the department", said Tom. "I was coming in at a senior level, and I found that I was constantly having to deal with crying people, people who were upset, people who were shouted at".

After an in-house lawyer made erroneous amendments to a document and Tom was briefly blamed, his relationship with van der Merwe soured.

"It turned out not be my fault", but after that he was “iced out", said the lawyer.

On a subsequent trip abroad for a partners' training program, Tom "saw what the firm’s culture was in Europe", and "it became clear to me that South Africa was very different".

On his return, "I wrote to HR in London, and went into great detail about the issues". (Tom was surprised to learn from RollOnFriday that he was not the first, nor the last, to have sent such a letter.)

"What disappointed me was having written directly to London, I didn't even get the courtesy of a reply", he said. "Instead I got notice of a disciplinary."

It referred to the fact that Tom's billings were low, which he said was only because he had been frozen out of work.

"It’s really sad. I come from a disadvantaged background, I didn't have the school ties - but this was the first time in my career I met someone...who refused to work with me".

"I decided I was done. I negotiated as best I could, and I left", said Tom. "I was psychologically blown out the water. I left the legal profession."

His judgment of the person he deemed responsible was unequivocal: "He shouldn't be removed from his management positions, he should be fired”.

Tom was also critical of the global firm. "If you just look at the number of people who were turned over - even senior people - it would be clear there was a problem. Surely, as one of the largest firms in the world, they’d have picked that up? I think he’s lasted this long because the firm staked their reputation on him."

Sonia De Vries joined the Joburg office as a partner in August 2016. She left less than two years later when the press criticised Bakers after it was found to be representing Jonas Makwakwa, an executive accused of being involved in South Africa's state capture scandal. She claimed at the time that she was being scapegoated for accepting Makwakwe as a client, even though the office had vetted the instruction.

"Suddenly the MP had amnesia, and couldn't remember authorising it", said a former colleague. "She was a single mother, two kids, and they threw her under a bus. She went into a panic. They could care less. All she asked was for three months' notice. They asked her to leave immediately. They had another female partner meet with her on the Saturday, to make her more pliable, and on Monday she was told she was no longer required to come to the office, and her employment was terminated with immediate effect".

De Vries wrote in 2018 to management outside of South Africa about her concerns. In a letter seen by RollOnFriday which she sent to Fiona Carlin, now Chief Executive of Baker McKenzie's EMEA+ Region, and Paul Rawlinson, then its global chair, she notified them of her intention to bring legal action.

"My intention with this letter is not to be entirely self-serving, but to convey a real concern about the manner in which people are treated in the BMSA office, often causing tremendous hardship and with no regard for due process or rights", she wrote.

"In my view, an alarming number of women, mostly senior, have left BMSA in the last 12 months or so, six of them since August 2017 (including me), and most (if not all) of them in unpleasant circumstances. BMSA has a reputation, among other law firms and in the South African business environment for being an unpleasant place to work and for treating attorneys very badly", wrote De Vries.

She described how she was confronted in a management committee meeting where "I was in effect suspended and instructed to work from home. This was an exceptionally traumatic event, exacerbated by" one individual's "aggressive behavior directed at me".

But "the humiliation and embarrassment continued", said De Vries, who wrote that "I had to ask for permission to attend at the BMSA offices and then could only access a boardroom".

(Another lawyer recalled undergoing a similar public shaming after they quit, where they were made to wait for hours in a communal area before being allowed into the office: “They wanted to demean you. It was a degrading thing to do. That's the kind of people they are", they said.)

Regarding her resignation, De Vries wrote, "Quite simply, I was bullied into it".

Before De Vries could take further action, she died of an aneurism. A colleague said they believed that, based on discussions with De Vries’s family and children, her death was caused "in no small part by the stress she suffered as a result of her mistreatment by the firm".

Another ex-partner from the Joburg office, 'Clare', told RollOnFriday, "There was a culture of bullying, and racial and gender discrimination driven by the leadership of the firm. Other senior Partners were complicit by their silence, choosing self preservation over standing up".

A senior partner "was known for swearing at staff members and colleagues and he did so openly and with impunity", she said.

"All the accolades and hurrah and noise around diversity and inclusivity is just that – hurrah and noise. The office remains rotten at its core", said the former partner.

Like Tom, Clare was damning of global management's inaction. "They knew for years what was happening and did nothing. People have spoken out and spoken up, but the modus operandi (and we have seen this many times in Baker McKenzie – let's not forget Gary Senior)" was "ensuring that the firm and its chosen individuals are protected in terms of reputational damage and litigation", which meant that "when people speak up, they are either exited as non-performers, trouble makers or tainted".

Which may explain why alarm bells didn't ring when another former partner sued the firm in 2018, for constructive dismissal and discrimination on the basis of race and sex.

Vani Chetty has accused the firm of applying the equity partner evaluation process less onerously to van der Merwe and Wildu Du Plessis, the head of Baker McKenzie's Global Africa Practice, than to her. In publicly available documents, the ex-partner claimed that she was pushed out because she "presented both a significant challenge as well as a threat to the white male leadership in BMSA by refusing either to agree or be complicit in decisions of which she is not supportive as she believed these to be detrimental to the best interests of BMSA".

Chetty, whose case is ongoing, declined to comment.

Others did, however: "I spoke up when I was there, and I lost my job because of that", said a former associate. "This transcends ordinary bullying (which is not right in and of itself) and goes outside the norms of a normal working environment", said another ex-associate. "I am so traumatised by lawyers and law, I won't let my children become lawyers. I left my specialism", said a senior lawyer who worked there. "I've had so many young people who worked in that office say, 'I've been scarred for life', and that's not what you want to hear in law", said a former partner.

Perhaps the most shocking element of their stories is that, over the years, so many of them appealed directly to senior HR personnel and management in London and the US, but were apparently ignored.

Taking the high turnover of staff and their pleas together, it is difficult to understand how Baker McKenzie's global management could have been unaware of the alleged toxicity of the Joburg office for so long.

Asked that question, and presented with excerpts of these accounts, Esteban Raventos, an Executive Committee member at the firm, said, "We are deeply concerned about the workplace and cultural issues in our Johannesburg office and are resolute as a global team to put this right".

"For many months, we have been working to deeply understand the issues and implement fundamental management and structural changes to the office, and we will say more about this as soon as we are able", he said.

"We are also re-examining and reinforcing the resources and systems available to any person to bring forward concerns in complete confidence and with high levels of support. Additionally, we have invested in supplemental talent and HR resources in Johannesburg to ensure we live our values and thrive as a business for the benefit of our people and our clients."


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Comments

Anonymous 13 August 21 09:11

So curious as I thought after the Gary Senior affair, they were a 'changed firm' and that toxic culture was a thing of the past.  Hmmmm....

Ex Bakers and recovering… 13 August 21 09:18

Brilliant expose as ever ROF.  Interesting to see London did nothing.  The South African practice was initially led from London and let’s just say the London office had form in cover ups and throwing those who complained or tried to do the right thing under the bus.

Ustoo 13 August 21 09:31

This sounds a lot like my former firm too (UK magic circle). I worked in their HK office. The culture around the regional boss and his behaviour  was toxic - he was known to bully and undermine not just lawyers but other partners too, especially those who called out his behaviour.  But London management always had his back and no matter what complaints were made about him (they were many), they would not only turn a blind eye, they would sing his praises. We could never work out if they just didn’t know what was happening or if they were deliberately ignoring it and protecting him. He had this inner circle of partner buddies in Asia who he looked after really well (always did his best to ensure they got awarded massive equity, made excuses for those underperforming etc) and I guess they were his power base, but even some of them starting calling him out.

One of the partners from another Asian office decided to make a stand - once some really dodgy behaviour came to light around appraisal records that were being “reworked” by management for out of favour lawyers. He basically caught them red handed. So they tried to undermine and destroy him but ended up digger deeper and deeper as he would not be intimidated by them all. He ended up handing them their collective backsides on a plate and they had to give him a humiliating public apology and a huge payoff, but they silenced him with an NDA. But it took years to get to that point and nothing happened to any of the management involved as far as I know. They now lecture us about the firm’s “values”. Shocking really. 

Anonymous 13 August 21 09:42

Think I've figured out the correct complaint procedure for lawyers:

9 years of bullying complaints to firm: no issue acknowledged

1 week of bullying complaints to ROF: office nuked from space

Anon 13 August 21 09:53

I know the firm you describe [email protected] There were partners in Asia who were openly threatened with retaliation by local management after they complained about management in Asia and what was uncovered. London HR and global management were well aware of the behaviour and threats to those who wanted it dealt with, but turned on the victims instead. They were more concerned about silencing them and covering up what was going on than helping. Shocking, I agree.  

Anon 13 August 21 10:11

Ustoo 931 and Anon 953, I remember it made news when they had to pay off the partner. I was in his office. I tried to find out what was going on - it was made clear to me they would not tell me and that if I asked again, it would be bad for my career. Complete lack of transparency but the size of the payoff suggests he must have had something damaging on them. 

Anon 13 August 21 10:21

Not to be flippant but stories like this are a reminder if ever it was needed of why all men should be lifting heavy 4+ times a week. If you’re 200lbs of lean muscle the chances of someone behaving in these ways to you is drastically reduced, trust me. 

Anonymous 13 August 21 10:33

I hated it there but we must also be honest. We all know that this CA was an under-performer who weaponised her tears to get away with not doing any work. Other underperforming CAs were pushed out but she had privilege that allowed her to cry wolf when it suited her. 
 

Ex-employee 13 August 21 10:48

I worked at BMSA a few years ago, but as support services. We were treated as badly, and sometimes worse because we weren't lawyers, by a number of senior lawyers and management members. He told me I was "useless" and "he didn't know why I was there" and a few hours later thanked me for a job well done. In the end, I was worked out of the firm because [xxxx] said so. In hindsight, it was the best thing that could've happened. 

I was on edge the entire time I worked there - I never knew when I would be shouted at, congratulated, ignored, ordered to do something close to impossible, be threatened or left to just get on with my work. [xxxx] was the biggest bully of them all and complaints against him were regularly brushed off and people told that his behaviour wasn't a big deal, it was just what he did. After leaving, it took ages to get back to who I used to be and to rebuild my self esteem and confidence. It was almost like dealing with PTSD.  

I worked at another law firm before working at BMSA and the culture and people were the complete opposite. They actually lived their values. It wasn't just wallpaper in the staff restaurant. BMSA talk a big game about diversity and inclusion, equality, looking after their people and being a really nice place to work, but it really is just all talk. They have lost so many great, talented people because they don't know how to treat them. 

 

Anonymous 13 August 21 11:06

So where was MANCOM whilst all this was going on?????

If they were privy, and party, to all this bullying etc, I assume that action has been taken against them too🤷🏽‍♀️

Anonymous 13 August 21 11:08

I didn't even bother reading that Bakers statement to the end. My eyes just glazed over. It's always, always the same bullshit getting trotted out when these things happen.... They know we will forget about it by the next cup of coffee. 

Anonymous 13 August 21 11:12

"stop talking and behave"

Totally unacceptable in a professional environment.

 

Strictly one for the bedroom.

Anonymous 13 August 21 11:14

Tells you everything you need to know:

 

The firm has vowed to overhaul the office's management, a week AFTER RollOnFriday revealed that Morne van der Merwe, the firm's erstwhile South Africa Managing Partner, had stepped down from the role.

Anonymous 13 August 21 11:19

The poor family of the lady who died. It’s rare that a ROF story makes me cry and be furious at the same time.

Anonymous 13 August 21 12:14

So true: 

"Taking the high turnover of staff and their pleas together, it is difficult to understand how Baker McKenzie's global management could have been unaware of the alleged toxicity of the Joburg office for so long." 

Anonymous 13 August 21 13:22

My time at BM was not pleasant either. I ended up seeking counselling for my mental health while I was working out how to leave.  Leaving, as hard as it was, was the best thing I ever did. My only regret was not standing up for myself but like many,  I couldn't afford to be unemployed.  

Ex-employee 13 August 21 15:21

I think it’s important to note that the bullying is not only perpetrated by senior associates and partners, although it definitely is perpetrated by these people (take a look at one particular female senior associate [xxxx], for example, who to this day continues to abuse, belittle and terrorize juniors - even after being reported - and is the reason I couldn’t spend another second at the firm or in the department). But the bullying is also perpetrated by junior associates and personal assistants (again, consider the associates and PAs in the [xxxx] department). ROF should definitely investigate these people because there’s no doubt that they have caused irreparable psychological damage to juniors. 

This article could not be more spot on about that fact that I, and many others, will never return to law after working at BMSA. What a shame that the people there, while they could use their skills to inspire, have done the total opposite. They don’t deserve to be considered mentors.

Bakers Dozen 13 August 21 16:46

I hear you Ex Bakers, when I speak up I get excited too. 

There's just something about the thrill of a live audience.

Anon 13 August 21 16:53

The other partners were all complicit by condoning and enabling the behaviour of the MP who would often use poor or underperformance as justification for his conduct. The important thing with this type of bullying is that it completely shatters your self confidence. How can you be expected to perform at your best when you have been made to feel (and have been told repeatedly) that you are useless? Extremely damaging. 

Ex bakers 13 August 21 17:29

I see the so called culture of friendship is alive and well at Baker. What a cess pit of morality the place is. The culture of indifference towards this toxic bullying behaviour goes right to the very top of the firm. The amount of turning a blind eye that goes on is staggering. Can’t believe I stuck the place for so long. My mental well-being and confidence were almost destroyed after years of passive aggressive behaviour. Nothing has been learnt post events in London. Shame on those who have been complicit in allowing this to continue. You know who you are. 

Anonymous 13 August 21 18:28

Bakers is making it really hard for companies who value their female employees to hire them. Shameful. 

Ex Employee 13 August 21 18:55

When I was a trainee there, we were pressured into doing a year-end skit mocking an equity partner for being an alcoholic, which he got fired for. The whole firm laughed, but I felt awful about it. 

Insider 13 August 21 18:57

All these partners probably aren’t lying about their treatment, but I’ve also heard stories about how badly they treated others. [xxxx], for example, has a reputation for being an absolute menace.

BM Associate 13 August 21 19:00

When covid came along, instead of cutting salaries across the board, BM cut only those of its lowest paid staff - its junior associates, cleaners and kitchen staff. The really horrendous part though is that the office wasn’t even struggling financially. How about that.

Anonymous 13 August 21 19:04

There’s a lot of mud slinging going on. I agree that the culture at BM was disgusting and prejudicial, but it is not right to now drag good people into the narrative. The majority of associates and support staff at Bakers were amazing people who did what they could everyday to help and shield others. It is not right to overlook all their efforts and tar them with the same brush.

The Muffin Man 13 August 21 19:28

The way people still get the firm name confused with the biscuit brand. Makes sense now. 

Anonymous 13 August 21 19:45

Let’s not forget how we never got any form of transparency into the disciplinary of that partner who would “get off” in his office while female associates were around. 

Anonymous 13 August 21 23:01

Someone should write a book about all the shenanigans at Bakers...  Oh hold on a minute, I think somebody is!

Anonymous 14 August 21 03:26

@ Ustoo 931 and Anon 953, it’s interesting the parallels between the firm you’re talking about and B&MSA.  Just shows how a few toxic personalities in a satellite office can become a law unto themselves with horrible repercussions for those under them. 

Anon 14 August 21 08:04

@BM Associate - it's horrible and true that those salaries were cut. But it's worth mentioning that this happened under the old leadership. The transitional leadership team fought hard to fix this. They paid all those employees back the portion of their cut salaries, even those that left. And they paid all employees an additional bonus to make up for the salary freeze.

Anonymous 14 August 21 10:34

Baker should spend less time lecturing its clients about D&I and ESG and more time attending to its own house.

Obi-Dan 14 August 21 18:38

Ten to fifteen years ago I was a Partner in a law firm immediately adjacent to Baker & McKenzie on New Bridge Street = It was NOT at all unusual to see ambulances called to their office . . . 

Sammy T 15 August 21 15:56

Before working at Baker & McKenzie my brother was an integral and important part of my family and my best friend. Its 2 years later and the fun loving person i once knew is now unrecognizable. We hardly speak anymore and when we do its only so he can cry and shout at me. Last month at a family function he misinterpreted a kind comment from my granny and spat in her food. 

Baker Mckenzie SA Survivor 15 August 21 16:48

Sadly there is no exaggeration here.

Unfortunately I was among the many who was, among other things, victimised, abused, discriminated against. I was so physically and mentally broken down on the daily that I was perpetually ill. Oh and heaven forbid I asked to take time out of the day to see a doctor — “there’s always something with you. You’re just full of excuses” (partner’s response).

It only took only four months at Baker Mckenzie South Africa to completely destroy my physical and mental health, my sense of self, and my passion for my work. Like many others it seems, I needed to take a break from practising law after Baker Mckenzie South Africa. When I finally felt that I was ready to re-enter the workplace (nearly a year after resigning from Baker Mckenzie South Africa), I moved away from the type of work I used to love, and into an entirely new practice area — it felt easier to start again from scratch — forgoing the years of experience I had gained — than to have to relive the trauma. 

I had raised my concerns early on — both with the poor excuse for an HR director, local partners, and now former partners within the London practice. All fell on deaf ears, and in fact the abuse just got worse after that.

I must also add that none of this is new —  I left Baker Mckenzie South EIGHT YEARS AGO — and they have only making changes NOW!! I do not believe that this is anything more than a window dressing exercise to save face within the market.. 

I empathise with Alice — I too suffered under the very same senior associate, whom ought to be named and shamed! For now I will settle with saying shame on you Baker McKenzie South Africa, shame on you!

 

Anonymous 15 August 21 22:20

Sorry to hear about this. This is not an isolated incident. I used to work for a very large insurance law firm and this sort of behaviour went on regularly. The worst was when an entire new team was brought in on considerably more money to carry out identical work to our cells, which even included them receiving the same type of cases as ourselves and running them at a lower standard while being paid a higher salary. Suffice to say we all departed

Ex_BM 15 August 21 23:01

ROF, you’ve done a great job with the story above, but the truth is that it isn’t only the BMSA office.  If you dig a bit deeper beyond London and Johannesburg you will find that the majority of the 77 offices have similar ‘hidden’ NDA stories. Instead of focusing on self-serving ESG initiatives the Global EC really needs to turn its attention to fixing the toxic internal ‘burn-out’ culture that has impacted the mental and physical health of well over 100+ employees who have worked there over the past ten years.  The firm as a whole needs to be fixed not just the individual offices - and that’s not something a global HR function can do…    

Anonymous 16 August 21 10:02

Considering that HR tend to be the main perpetrators and facilitators of workplace bullying and harassment, I wouldn't have thought bringing in a new HR person is likely to solve much.

Anonymous 16 August 21 10:09

My time at Bakers in London was punctuated by intolerable stress, at various points leading to me seeing a psychiatrist and being prescribed anti-depressants. It's a firm that demands loyalty from its people but shows none in return. People who behave counter to the firm's stated values often get promoted and those who stand up to such people find themselves cast as troublemakers, frozen out and then sooner or later pushed out. 

Anonymous 16 August 21 14:23

To 16 August 10.02 - HR is rigged. My colleagues and I have flagged our head of department going against firm policy. He refused to fill up our written evaluations every year despite firm policy requiring it and HR basically agreed to go along with him?! GLOBAL Leadership - if you are reading this please sort your HR out.

Ex Bakers 16 August 21 15:34

I recall looking out of my BM office window, wondering when I’d taste freedom again. Strangely, I’ve noticed that it takes a while after leaving BM for your tastebuds to start healing: I’ve got plenty of freedom now, but I still constantly feel like I need to look over my shoulder. I guess we have to unlearn certain behaviours that became unhealthily engrained.

Anonymous 17 August 21 08:09

The big mental health charities, e.g. Mind, need to be calling out bad employers by name instead of cosying up to employers and HR. Until then nothing is likely to change.

ex BMSA corp lawyer 17 August 21 10:00

My time at BMSA was plagued with inappropriate behaviour perpetrated from the top. I always felt uncomfortable and like I had to fit in with the drinking culture. [xxxxx] was always a drunken wreck with his clients and would be taking off his top and smoking inside. He encouraged others to behave in this way at firm parties. The pressure was immense. 

Ex BMLit 17 August 21 12:39

So many of the stories here resonate with me. I was at BM for almost a decade and it was awful. Some of the worst years of my life, but I didn't realise how bad until I finally made it out and saw the world beyond the walls. Partners there were complete tyrants and put unreasonable pressure on associates to bill huge hours and to behave a certain way at socials. I once tried to turn down a glass of wine at a department social and our Head of Department got four burly senior associates to lock me in a conference room with an anaconda.

Anonymous 17 August 21 15:19

@ex BSMA corp lawyer - while some of the claims, if true, would indicate cultural problems, are you alleging that a seniir partner sat drunk in the office with his top off in client meetings while smoking and encouraged others to do so?

Ex MC 18 August 21 10:28

Sadly, this will sound familiar to many at other firms too. Particularly satellite offices of large firms.

Anonymous 18 August 21 12:41

It's becoming increasingly difficult to tell which of these comments are true and which are parodies.  I think that alone tells us all we need to know about the Bakers culture!

Ex BMSA corp lawyer 18 August 21 16:19

@Anonymous - You’ve conflated two things there and made it your own. Anyone who has been to a BMSA year end function knows what happens. It’s concerning and is probably indicative of more than just cultural problems.

Anonymous 18 August 21 17:45

@ex BSMA corp lawyer @ 16.19 - no, I tried to understand your original comment. What are you saying happens?

Ex BMSA corp lawyer 19 August 21 10:10

@Anonymous - what I'm saying is what I wrote in my post.

There was a partner, whose behaviour was not unusual or atypical, who used to get drunk with clients  several times a week, return to the office, strip down to his socks and undergarments, and then recline like a great basking albino hippopotamus right there in the middle of the typing pool, huffing away on ten cigarettes at a time. In broad daylight.

What about my original post wasn't clear?

Katheryn 19 August 21 10:51

I interviewed with [xxxx] in 2014 -at the time I was desperate for a job but his attitude was so appalling that I remember telling my parents I would rather be unemployed. Although, the levels of toxicity at BMSA appear bad, it is generally reflective of several senior personalities at many of the firms which are dubbed "prestigious" at the cost of people's mental health and work-life balance. Law firms are devoid of proper HR (not that the enthusiastic and often talented people are unskilled but rather they are not empowered to do their jobs as effectively as corporate) because the management is only accountable to itself -a collection of sociopaths. It took me leaving South Africa, where the racial dynamic adds another level of complexity to the pathology, to rediscover my love of law again but I am permanently wounded by the emotional and psychological abuse I suffered at law firms (including my time in New York). I would never return to one again anywhere in the world. I am now happily enjoying the journey of being in-house i.e. a sane environment.

p.s. I chuckled when I saw say "I will never allow my children to become lawyers"... I strongly agree! It amazes me how we all know this, have known this for decades and yet nothing changes.

Anon 20 August 21 10:56

Obi-Dan 14 August 21 18:38

I worked at Bakers London 10-15 years ago (not a lawyer so go ahead and abuse me - lawyers everywhere are atrociously rude) and although occasionally ambulances had to be called, it is wrong to say that it was usual. I have my own issues with Bakers' behaviours in the 20-teens but actually 15 odd years ago it wasn't a bad place to work - particularly in the late 1990s to early to mid-2000s.  Alright it depended on which team you worked in - and I got lucky there - but even so, I feel bad for all the great people who still work at Bakers (legal and non-legal teams) and are seeing the very negative comments on here.  There are pockets of downright awful (of both genders so don't you female lawyers sit there feeling all superior either) but you get that in any law firm that I have worked at so far in my long career and most people at Bakers, London (and those I interacted with across the world) are jolly decent sorts who just get on with their work and try to keep their teams safe from the awful people around them.  

Anon 20 August 21 11:46

Ex BMSA corp lawyer 19 August 21 10:10: I saw him behave like that when I was at Bakers. Grim.

Anonymous 20 August 21 14:56

Anon, and Ex BMSA - what, sitting in the office in his underwear smoking? Did nobody say anything, leave the vicinity, or report him?

Ex BM3 20 August 21 23:32

ExBMSA2 and others: Is it just me, or was he too “friendly” when he was drunk, and then barely bothered to acknowledge your existence when he sobered up the next day. Bizarre behaviour.

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