Gary Senior, the ex-London Managing Partner of Baker McKenzie, made a "failed pass" at a junior colleague but it did not amount to professional misconduct, his defence has argued to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal. The defence also said that Baker McKenzie threw Senior "under a bus" and fired him as a PR move after RollOnFriday broke the story in 2018.
The SRA's prosecution of Gary Senior resumed via a virtual hearing last month, with closing submissions being presented to the SDT this week. Senior is accused of "attempting to embrace and kiss" a female junior colleague in 2012, against her will, and then sweeping it under the carpet. At a hearing in December, the junior lawyer told the tribunal that Senior had asked her to stay behind in his hotel room, and then asked her for a hug and kissed her neck. However, Senior disputes her claim that he gripped her and that she turned away from him.
In his final submissions, Senior's defence barrister Gregory Treverton-Jones QC told the tribunal that Senior's actions did not amount to professional misconduct and he was guilty of "no more than having made a failed pass at a junior colleague", according to reports in the Law Gazette and Law.com. "Many relationships" form between junior and senior colleagues in firms with "one thing leading to another", Treverton-Jones told the tribunal.
The only two things to survive the pandemic: cockroaches and Gary Senior's trial.
Since the #MeToo movement, female employees were more likely "to raise concerns about inappropriate behaviour", argued Treverton-Jones, adding that while that was a good thing, there was a "danger of permitting the pendulum to swing too far." He also argued that other misconduct allegations within the profession that have recently come to light, such as the Ryan Beckwith case, were "far more serious" than Senior's actions.
Treverton-Jones also told the tribunal that Baker McKenzie dismissed Senior for "public relations reasons" as a result of RollOnFriday breaking the story in 2018. He said that Baker McKenzie had subsequently "mishandled" the matter, and that the firm had thrown Senior and those involved in the internal investigation under a bus "to protect themselves from their perception in the media."
The SRA is also prosecuting Bakers' ex-head of HR, Martin Blackburn, and its former head of litigation, Tom Cassels, for participating in the flawed internal investigation, along with the firm itself.
In the hearing on Monday, it emerged that the firm's investigation into Senior was apparently reported to the SRA in 2015. Blackburn, the firm's former head of HR, claimed that he had sent a letter to the SRA that year, telling them that his internal investigation into the incident had caused "much annoyance" to Senior.
Blackburn also alleged at the hearing last Friday that the firm's London Management committee discussed the Senior incident when it had occurred in 2012 but decided not to report the matter to the SRA.
It was revealed at the hearing that the female junior lawyer who Senior has allegedly tried to kiss was given "around £140,000" in a settlement agreement with Bakers.
The case is expected to conclude this week.