Baker McKenzie launches ‘thorough review’ into ex-lawyer’s racism allegations
US law giant Baker McKenzie has vowed to immediately conduct a “thorough review” into claims a mixed-race lawyer was subject to multiple instances of discrimination in one of its European offices.
The Chicago firm’s review comes after one of its former lawyers claimed she felt forced to leave her job due to facing poor mental health as a result of racial discrimination in Baker McKenzie’s offices.
The mixed-race lawyer said in an email leaked to news website LegalCheek that a “lack of diversity” at the firm drove her to quit.
She claimed, according to the report, her colleagues in the Baker McKenzie office touched her hair, used the ‘n-word’, and asked her whether a family picture hanging in her office was a “rap album cover.”
The lawyer, who wished to remain anonymous, also claimed she was “yelled at” by a member of staff for making comments about the use of “blackface” in a Sinterklaas event.
Christmas celebrations in various northern European, including Belgium and the Netherlands, often include a character called Zwarte Piet, who is depicted in blackface.
The lawyer said her work email address only included part of her last name as it had been decided putting her full surname in would be “confusing for clients”.
She claimed one colleague “used the n-word” and was then “backed up” by another employee who told her “he doesn’t mean it in a bad way”.
“I have come to a point today where my mental health can no longer tolerate what it has been tolerating for the past years,” the lawyer said, according to a quote from the email in the report.
Baker McKenzie has now issued an apology and vowed to complete a thorough review into the lawyer’s allegations.
“We are very sorry that our former colleague had this experience at the firm,” the Baker McKenzie spokesperson said.
The US law firm also pledged to review its channels for reporting inappropriate behaviour and expand its diversity and inclusion initiatives, including via third-party training.
“We do not tolerate racism, sexism or any form of discrimination, and we take the issues raised in their email extremely seriously,” the Baker McKenzie spokesperson said.
The news follows reports last September that it had “parted ways” with a top partner in its UAE offices after he made a series of homophobic tweets.