Decorum Maketh The Lawyer

| General

Decorum Maketh The Lawyer

What Happened In The Case?

The incident happened around Christmas 2017 and the day started innocuously. Everybody was seemingly anticipating an enjoyable night. The original plan involved junior and senior staff along with some clients meeting at and visiting the Christmas markets. They then intended to visit several nearby bars.

The Christmas night out started in average fashion. However, things became interesting later when the solicitor found himself joined by two male higher-level lawyers, two clients, and a female trainee solicitor. Incidentally, one Associate previously acted as the female trainee’s Supervisor. The group was seemingly intending to make a night of it. Somebody within the group must have presumably proposed visiting premises that allowed entertainment of a sexual nature and alcohol consumption.

The solicitor and the female trainee claimed to be unaware of the type of establishment they were about to visit. The solicitor denied:

  • proposing to visit the venue
  • claimed not to have known the trainee was present in the club and
  • the allegation that he had attempted to persuade the female trainee to enter the establishment.

Inappropriate Behaviour

The incident appears to have become even more controversial whilst the revellers were in the club. At some point whilst the group was sitting together in a booth. The trainee alleged that the solicitor subject to the proceedings in question had inappropriately touched her. He had allegedly done this by putting his hand around her waist. The behaviour made the female trainee feel intimidated, and she sought to signal her disapproval of his conduct by deliberately choosing to walk away and escaped from the lawyer’s presence

The Lawyer Got The Hint Didn’t He?

The lawyer seemingly did not receive the message and when the female trainee returned to the group he repeated his behaviour.

How Did The Lawyer Respond?

The defendant’s lawyer strongly rebutted the allegations against him, claiming his actions were done with sexual or improper intent. Whilst accepting he had touched the female trainee’s waist and his perceived behaviour potentially being interpreted negatively. The SRA appear to have accepted the lawyer’s explanation.

However, the main aggravating factor against him was his failure to check that the female trainee was consenting to such behaviour. Her junior status as a female trainee made her feel powerless to resist the advances due to two factors:

  • his senior position and
  • the presence of clients.

As a result, the lawyer was sacked by his employer and rebuked by the regulator.

What Can Lawyers Learn From This Incident?

Legal professionals should be learning the lessons from this case such as:

  • reading the room properly
  • Asking, not doing (!)
  • considering the feelings of staff members before acting
  • keeping a professional attitude by not:
  • attending questionable establishments
  • inappropriately touching female members of staff and
  • considering their seniority compared to junior staff.

They should also avoid:

  • involvement in compromising incidents
  • allowing their integrity to be questioned
  • exhibiting perceptively unwanted behaviour and
  • consuming excessive amounts of alcohol.

If they take this on board it go a long way to mitigate against the risk of future lawyers falling foul of fines and sanctions in similar future cases.

The Legists Content Team

ASSESSING FIRMS

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THE ARTICLE WAS WRITTEN USING THE FOLLOWING SOURCES

[1] Solicitors Regulation Authority – Peter Walmsley – 24 May 2022 - FINAL_YouGov_Legatics_Report_Master_p4.pdf (hubspotusercontent-na1.net)

[2] Tobin, Sam – Former City Partner rebuked for putting arm round trainee in strip club – Law Society Gazette – 24th May 2022 - One in four lawyers suffers daily stress | News | Law Gazette

[3] Principle 2 of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFL

[4] Principle 5 of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFL

[5] Paragraph 7.3 of the Code of Conduct for Solicitors, RELs and RFL

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