bakers morne van der merwe

The amazing shrinking profile.


The head of Baker McKenzie's South Africa business has stepped down from his management roles for reasons unknown.

Morné van der Merwe was a Managing Partner at the global firm for four years, having moved to Bakers after a one year stint at Dewey & LeBoeuf following 14 years at Werksmans Attorneys as head of its mining practice.

An insider said the former MP actually stood down around two months ago and that partners from the firm's Amsterdam office have been handling his duties in the meantime.

“We confirm that Morne van der Merwe has stepped down as Managing Partner of the Johannesburg office", said a Bakers spokesperson in a statement.

The firm declined to comment on the reasons given by a source for the change, but did confirm that “our Johannesburg Management Committee is temporarily being supported and advised by experienced principals”.

There were signs of frantic action behind the scenes this week after the accuracy of van der Merwe's profile page was queried.

After Bakers was contacted for comment, the page was altered overnight to remove his title of Managing Partner. Then, yesterday, it changed again to remove his title as Head of the Johannesburg Corporate and M&A Practice Group, a role he has held for almost ten years.

The intrigue follows the less mysterious erasure of KWM's Managing Partner from its website, revealed by RollOnFriday last week.

Bakers committed to cleaning shop after it found itself in the eye of the #metoo storm, and a leaked review of the Gary Senior affair showed the firm's top brass paddling very hard indeed to provide him with cover. While nothing has been confirmed with regard to van der Merwe, other than the surrender of his management positions, it could be another sign that even Bakers' top partners are now subject to more serious scrutiny. If you know more, write in.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 06 August 21 10:04

If they dealt with whatever the issue was months ago, why only change his profile on the website after the press start asking questions? It’s either fishy or incompetent.

Anonymous 06 August 21 11:36

Let us just say Bakers have form in mismanaging these type of situations.  Didn’t change the website?  Maybe they hoped no one would find out.  Again.

Anonymous 06 August 21 11:38

I’m sure Bakers must be very busy trying to figure out how they can blame it all on the unfortunate HR person again.

Anonymous 06 August 21 12:33

ROF, suggest you dig a little deeper. Just don’t suffocate in all the dirt. 

Anonymous 06 August 21 12:46

There should be zero tolerance for bullying and misogyny in the work place! Period! Let’s stop making excuses and deal with the real issues at hand. 

Anonymous 06 August 21 13:53

Bet he left a document on a train, and had the impudence to be female and/or BAME when he did it.

 

 

Justice for Sana. Never forget.

Anon 06 August 21 14:08

I worked there and they broke me. The amount of people who had breakdowns, some even were admitted into hospital. 
 

They ruined careers and Bruce Schaubach was just as bad. He should be fired. 

Anonymous 06 August 21 15:36

Having worked there for some of the most miserable years of my working life, I can truly say Bakers have an abhorrent culture and all this guff about 'we're a changed firm, we've learnt the lessons of the past' has about as much basis in truth as Trump's views on the US election!

Anon13 06 August 21 16:11

Any lawyer thinking of going to Baker McKenzie, please don't, especially if you are young and female. 

Go speak to some of the young females who left the firm early this year and last year... 

English qualified attorney practicing in Hong Kong 06 August 21 16:18

Last year, they threatened not to sign a young female's admission papers because she exposed bullying in the firm.

They broke her and to this day have done nothing to compensate her in any capacity. 

An ex-Bakers employee 06 August 21 16:46

Although all these negative comments are true, it is important to remember that all this negativity is only caused by 3 people.

There are some wonderful partners who are trying hard to change the office culture and rebuild.  To name a few - Janet MacKenzie, Lerisha Naidu and Virusha Subban who are all on Mancom, and others like Darryl Bernstein, Kieran Whyte and Johan Botes. These partners are working hard to change things from the inside out. 

Anonymous 06 August 21 16:56

The firm is rife with these types of issues. Females are so called under performers and bullied and victimised at all levels. Everybody turns their head or shrugs their shoulders as they step over each over to claim their cheque 

Ex employee 06 August 21 17:05

The negatively was not only caused by three people. I went through hell because of several people, and other people did as well. 
Someone said above, they went to the three people for help and as a result nearly got fired. I left last year - 

I first raised my concerns with Lerisha Naidoo, she canceled over 6 meetings with me (knowing how serious the issue was) and never responded to any follow up emails.

There is a lot of talk about how Kieran has protected his daughter (they work in the SAME department!!) against things she has done. 
 

Johan is the only person there who has held the firm together, he is unbelievable, he should be made the Managing Director.  

 

 

Anonymous 06 August 21 17:14

If only it were 3 people.  What about the 10+ partners who were all informed about what Gary Senior had done yet thought it was perfectly acceptable for him to (a) stay within the firm and (b) be promoted?

Anonymous 06 August 21 17:19

Even very senior females turn a blind eye to the plight of other females. At the same time the firm preaches about diversity and inclusion. Urmmmm where? 

Anon-disclosure. 06 August 21 17:23

Henry Ford once said “A business that makes nothing but money is a poor business”. Take from that what you will. 

Anonymous 06 August 21 17:32

@16.11 - why did they leave? Is it a good place for young males, and older males and females?

Anonymous 06 August 21 17:49

@English qualified attorney practicing in Hong Kong - if true, that would be wrong towards anyone, not just young females.

Anonymous 06 August 21 17:53

Professional jealousy is a nasty thing. Everyone knows Van der Merwe is by far the best in the local market. I’ve heard there is a group of underperformers trying to nail him.

Anonymous 06 August 21 18:05

My best friend worked for Bakers London. They have a culture of throwing senior people under the bus. Looked at what happened with Paul Rawlinson. i think innocent until proven guilty

Anonymous 06 August 21 18:13

They should be investigating a certain senior male employment lawyer instead. Biggest bully ever! How many women left Bakers because of him! I’ve heard two of his previous team members had complete mental breakdowns and one became suicidal. Talk about skeletons…

Anonymous 06 August 21 18:19

Let's not forget this is a firm that has a history of only looking into matters (and changing the website) when the press (usually ROF) get involved!

Anonymous 06 August 21 18:49

Gosh, Bakers do get themselves in a pickle.  Anyone would think there was a toxic culture there or something.

Anonymous 06 August 21 19:26

@Anon13 16:11

Maybe she will get some compensation from all other two claims of sexual harassment. See https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-57901154

anonymous 06 August 21 20:15

Firm may be dodgy, but their local partner Mike van  Rensburg is an excellent attorney and operates with integrity 

ShootyOriginal 06 August 21 20:34

@19:26: Perhaps try again, using full sentences, when the smack wears off?

Ex employee 06 August 21 21:16

Totally agree that the negativity is not as a result of only 3 people but from the entire firm - and those people who were mentioned above as “wonderful partners” always knew what I (and others) were going through and did NOTHING. I too went through hell due to a majority of the people at the firm. The culture is toxic and the people are too, and bullying is rife. Even when reported, no one does anything to help those who are suffering. Everyone there would rather save themselves than help those who need it. And the perpetrators will never be held accountable, but continue to torment others, especially juniors. 

Leaving Baker & McKenzie was the best decision I ever made.

Anonymous 06 August 21 21:18

@19:26 are you seriously dismissing someone’s complaint just because she has been a victim more than once? It’s is exactly this misogynistic attitude that is problematic and should be eradicated. 

Anon 06 August 21 21:31

@19:26 are you seriously dismissing the complaint just because she has been a victim more than once? What next - she deserved it because of the way she dressed?! Change your perspective, she’s not the problem. 

Anonymous 06 August 21 22:41

@An ex-Bakers employee - who are thd 3 people and in what way are they causing negativity?

Anonymous 06 August 21 22:43

@16.56 - if everyone is clambering over one another, how can only females be bullied or victimised?

BCD 07 August 21 02:07

@anonomous 6 19:26 - your delusional self confidence must be humbled - 

There has never, ever, been an incident of sexual harassment against myself while I was at the firm. 

Regarding the BBC article, I haven't receive any compensation  and if you took time to read it, there were no “two claims”. 

However, I have been involved in changes, including female guests being solely accompanied by female security guards, a safe line for women to call, and by virtue of people reading the story managed to raise funds for an organization for women and children who have been sexually and physically abused. 

You are more than welcome to contact me directly if you would like to make a donation in whatsoever capacity. 
 

x

Anonymous 07 August 21 08:10

The atmosphere there is really cold. Especially in M&A. All female and POC trainees know not to go there because they won’t be briefed. 

Lerisha is the one of the only partners a majority of the firm feel comfortable enough to approach. She will genuinely listen and help where she can. She is really fighting to change things, so is the current ManCom namely Janet and Virusha. Imagine waking up everyday to push change in a firm where the majority want to keep it male and pale!!

 

Anon 07 August 21 08:20

Suggest all attorneys at Baker McKenzie re-read the Legal Practice Councils code of conduct before defending the firm. 
 

One beautiful extract is 3.14 dealing with the conduct of legal practitioners: 

3.14 behave towards their colleagues, whether in private practice or otherwise, including any legal practitioner from a foreign jurisdiction, and towards members of the public, with integrity, fairness and respect and without unfair discrimination, and shall avoid any behaviour which is insulting or demeaning. 

Anonymous 07 August 21 09:12

@18.13 - nice try. Everyone knows the person you’re referring to is one of the nicest, kindest, supportive leavers. I see you don’t have ANY evidence to link the two leavers’ illnesses with his behaviour, all you can do is smear

Anonymous 07 August 21 09:13

Those who want to retire instead of being kicked out should find a small firm to grandfather or start out on their own, or make sure they are squeaky clean. 

Anon. 07 August 21 09:45

Bakers reputation in the local market sliding down the pole like “call me when you want, call me when you need, call me in the morning I’ll be on the way”

Anonymous 07 August 21 10:11

Leaving Bakers was the best move I ever made. Toxic beyond belief. Just read the internal report that ROF leaked into the Gary Senior affair. Everyone either blaming each other or passing a very hot potato with no accountability or responsibility. Truly ghastly firm.

Anonymous 07 August 21 10:32

@22:43 it isn’t just against females. I’ve witnessed victimisation of young associates from a non-white ethnic group (that was reported). A senior individual referred to as “our Indian friend” ( also reported). But there is no doubt about how females are treated. It is no coincidence that lawyers have been driven to severe mental health issues and worse. 

Anonymous 07 August 21 10:42

@8.20 not sure what point you might be making. But something that is popular within Bakers is blaming the victim. Change has to come from the top. Bad behaviour within teams  is often not called out especially when the perp is pals with those on high.,

Anon 07 August 21 11:28

@08:10 totally agree. The white male egos in power cannot handle female voices unless they are subservient. The boys club is desperate to prevent anyone else from expressing a view or making a decision, especially if it will impact the pockets of the clique. Thanks goodness for Lerisha, Janet and Virusha who are able to look after the interests of tue rest of the firm, not just the select view. 

Anonymous 07 August 21 16:37

@ 14:44 you miss the point, why should they have to “handle it” just because they don’t have a dick? Listen to yourself. You sound like a Bakers partner! 
 

yes many females succeed and many females end up having mental break  downs , suicidal or worse. Is that really ok?? 

Anonymous 07 August 21 19:58

@16.37 - no, you miss the point. It was the males that were accused of not being able to handle it. Bakers partners are as likely to be female as male - which do I sound like!

 

Anonymous 08 August 21 08:22

Being evasive about what is happening and then watching your office implode in public in the comments section is one way of handling things I suppose.

Former BM associate 08 August 21 17:51

Shall we name the architects of BM’s toxic culture, to get some accountability going?

Anon 08 August 21 20:18

@Former BM associate, I agree.  Also, let’s not forget the senior associates who go untouched when perpetrating the bullying, harassment and victimisation, and are even edged on by partners. 

Anonymmmmmm 08 August 21 20:35

@BM Former Associate, I think that a lot of the times the senior associates have a huge impact on the toxic culture. Normally it is the senior associates to whom the more junior members of staff report to, especially the trainees. 

Anonymous 09 August 21 06:38

6th @ 17.14 - not all of the allegations against Gary Senior turned out to be true though.

Anonymous 09 August 21 06:40

6th @ 17.19 - I suppose the 'very senior females' is where the diversity and inclusion is!

Anonymous 09 August 21 11:06

6th @ 18.13 - why should they be investigating a certain male lawyer? What skeletons?

Anonymous 09 August 21 11:35

I’ve heard some associates who have left are returning - couldn’t make it there either ROFL

Anon 09 August 21 18:01

@ 11:35: You sound like the kinda person who would blame a woman for being abused by her husband. Maybe sit this one out.

Anonymous 13 August 21 08:14

Hard to know what actually happened here. The change of role could be for a variety of reasons. Some of the comments hint at a toxic workplace culture, but there is shortage of detail and any requests to provide more specifics go unanswered. There is more than a whiff of misandry about some of the comments, and without properly particularised allegations or evidence one can't rule out the possibility that some of the allegations are malicious and that the intent is to get rid of a male boss and replace them with a female one.

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