Freshfields partners will face huge fines if an internal committee deems that they have misbehaved.
The Magic Circle firm is establishing a conduct committee to investigate partners suspected of breaching rules set out in a 'conduct protocol'. Any partners found to have transgressed will be hit in their wallet with a fine of up to 20 per cent of their annual profit share.
Given profit per equity partner at Freshfields has been around £1.85 million, the worst offenders censured under the scheme could see around £370,000 redistributed to more saintly peers.
"We want to ensure that positive behaviour is consistently valued and that inappropriate behaviour is called out and acted upon" a spokesman at the firm told RollOnFriday. "For more than a year we have been running a global behaviours programme to drive culture change" the Freshfields spokesman said.
The announcement of the initiative comes at a time when former partner, Ryan Beckwith, was recently found by a tribunal to have acted without integrity by engaging in sexual acts with a drunk junior lawyer in his team. He should have known that his conduct was inappropriate, said the tribunal, and it amounted to an abuse of his position of seniority.
Questions remain over Freshfields' response to the female lawyer's complaint about Beckwith. Senior partner Ed Braham said at the time of the hearing that the firm took all complaints "extremely seriously", and that it instructed an external firm to conduct an investigation when the matter was raised.
It resulted in a written warning for Beckwith which required him to take early retirement if there was another incident. But the firm would not say if it reported Beckwith to the SRA, which would appear to have been an obligation given the nature of the allegations and its warning.
Freshfields is of course not alone in having to deal with partners for wandering hands or glans. Last year, a senior Slater and Gordon lawyer and his paralegal were fired for repeatedly shagging in the firm's London office. And Clyde & Co axed a partner for inappropriate behaviour.
Freshfields declined to divulge examples of the type of behaviour which would attract a fine, so it's lucky RollOnFriday managed to obtain a copy by other means.
|PARTNER'S CRIME||PROFIT SHARE FINE|
|Told joke at which underlings felt compelled to laugh||5% per punchline|
|Downed a platter of Jägerbombs in under one minute||8% (10% if sick)|
|Felt colleague's buttock without consent||10% per buttock|
|Initiated food fight in open plan areas||12% plus cleaning fee|
|Refused to wear clothes||15%|
|Mooted defecting to Kirkland||20%|