The former London managing partner of Baker McKenzie Gary Senior today admitted sexually harassing a lawyer “half his age” in 2012.
Senior has been accused of breaching professional standards after sexually harassing a junior lawyer (Person A) after a night of drinking and then allegedly interfering in the internal investigation into the incident.
Senior was managing partner of the legal giant’s London office at the time of the 2012 incident. He left the firm last year after the allegations came to light.
Andrew Tabachnik QC, prosecuting for the Solicitors Regulation Authority, asked Senior if he thought his “own version events amounts to sexual harassment of Person A?”
Senior replied: “Yes I think so, yes.”
Tabachnik said Senior had asked the junior lawyer who was “half your age or perhaps less” to stay behind in his hotel room after a night of drinking.
“You made a pass at her,” Tabachnik said, giving her a “compliment about her looks and kissing her on the neck… none of which she wanted.”
In a note made in the days after the incident, Person A alleged that Senior’s conduct went further than this, something he disputed.
Person A said Senior asked her to stay behind at 3am after a small group had spent an hour drinking wine and beer in his hotel room after a night out.
“Gary Senior said ‘time for a hug then,’” Tabachnik said, reading out Person A’s account.
“He said ‘you are very attractive, I think you’re really fit,’” Person A’s account said.
“He looked at the bed, I felt disgusted, he was still hugging me the whole time,” her statement said.
“I don’t recall the situation getting that far advanced,” Senior said.
Senior said that at the time he thought Person A was giving signals that she was interested in him sexually, but said he now conceded this was not the case based on Person A’s evidence.
An unnamed man, known as Person C, was also in the room and was touching Person A’s legs.
“She was looking at me and smiling at me while this was going on,” Senior said.
In her contemporaneous note, Person A said she was “absolutely certain I did not give any signal, verbal or non-verbal, that I was attracted to him”.
Senior did not make the suggestion that Person A “led him on” until days after the incident.
Senior was questioned by Tabachnik and the chair of the tribunal as to why he had not made a contemporary record of his version of events.
It is “quite surprising for a senior lawyer not to make a contemporary note of his version of events,” Tabachnik said.
Senior said he felt he was in the hands of the firm’s head of HR Martin Blackburn and another partner, Tom Cassels, who were investigating the matter.
“They did not suggest I make a note,” he said.
Tabachnik put to Senior that he was reticent about putting anything in writing as he felt it could be used as the basis of a claim against him.
“That is absolutely not correct,” Senior said.
“I certainly had anxiety about Person A bringing a claim, but I didn’t avoid making a note because I thought that might be used against me,” he said.
Person A ultimately left the firm after being given a cash settlement and signing a non-disclosure agreement (NDA).
Senior was given a written warning and allowed to keep his job.
Baker McKenzie, Blackburn – now at KPMG, and Cassels – now at Linklaters, are also being prosecuted in the same case, accused of carrying out a flawed investigation into the incident. They deny wrongdoing.
Senior denies professional misconduct and denies improperly influencing the investigation into the incident.
A spokesperson for Baker McKenzie said: “We’ve learned much from this episode, recognised what went wrong and have well-established and effective policies and programmes in place across the firm.”
The case continues.