On 17th January 2023, the industry regulator, the Bar Standards Board decided to hand down an order imposing a ban on a barrister preventing him from continuing to practise after evidence emerged
The Solicitors Regulation Authority Did Not Like What They Saw From This Solicitor…Here’s Why
Put yourself in the place of a job candidate who has been selected for an interview. To gain an advantage the candidate may have spent time preparing. This may have involved considering the potential questions which may be asked and the job’s requirements.
However, the positive experience can sometimes be negative. In March 2022 reports surfaced of the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal judgment whereby a female candidate had applied for a paralegal position. She had seemingly thought it was going to be fairly standard. The candidate arrived for her interview where the interviewer greeted and led her into an interview room. Nothing strange so far? Well after this point the relationship turned sour. The candidate alleged that when she turned around, physically removed her jacket and hung it up she claimed that her interviewer said in a seemingly sordid manner, ‘Mmm I like what I see’. The candidate was astonished at hearing this from any modern-day interviewer never mind one in a law firm. She described ‘feeling like a piece of meat’ and ‘horrified’. However, this was only the start of the ordeal.
The candidate claimed that instead of realising how sleazy he was acting, the impact his behaviour was having and reining it in, the interviewer chose to repeat the line ‘Mmm I like what I see’ throughout. He kept inquiring into whether the candidate was single and described her as ‘beautiful’. There is no doubt that the candidate was not anticipating these questions in her interview preparation. As the interview progressed the candidate had seemingly impressed the interviewer and he made a job offer. Normally this would be a moment to celebrate. However, the candidate was not in celebratory mood because the offer appeared conditional upon the candidate:
- Wearing high heeled shoes
- Short skirts and;
- The interviewer communicated that the firm only selected ‘beautiful women’.
The candidate felt violated by the interview and complained to the SRA. When the regulator put the allegations to him the interviewer questioned the veracity of the accusations, denied them and did not consider his remarks to evoke any sexual connotations. However, the SDT disagreed. The interviewer denied being a sexual predator. However, the SDT said this was irrelevant because the hearing was not designed to decide if he was a sexual predator. The panel clarified that its role was to adjudicate on whether the remarks made and questions posed were influenced by sexual gratification. The SDT found his behaviour to be for his own sexual gratification. They were worried by his conduct because it diverged from the behaviour expected of a solicitor.
Interviewers and candidates need to be taking note of this decision. Candidates should not be:
- Facing questions regarding their respective relationship status, or
- Receiving any form of harassment or
- Whether they have children; or
- Their religious beliefs.
Interviewers should only ask questions and make comments about whether candidates have the:
- Experience and
- Educational requirements for the job.
Interviewers should also be thinking about what they are saying to candidates and steering clear of any unwanted behaviour. If this behaviour is unwanted then if it is designed to violate a person’s dignity or create an environment which is:
- Humiliating or
Then this may be classified as sexual harassment if it is suggested by the evidence. Solicitors need to tread carefully when interviewing candidates of they risk being hand a substantial financial penalty. The solicitor in this case was handed down a substantial £20,000 fine. The decision comes as a health warning for all employers: There is no room for this outdated behaviour in an a modern workplace interview and it belongs to another era.
#CollingwoodLegal #EvershedsSutherlandInternational #WardHadaway #Weightmans #WombleBondDickinson #Burnetts #MuckleLLP #SintonsLLP #BainesWilsonLLP #SwinburneMaddison #DavidGraySolicitors #EndeavourPartnership #Hay&Kilner
SOURCES USED WHEN WRITING THIS ARTICLE
 Hyde, John – Law Society Gazette – ‘Mmm, I like what I see’: Law firm owner fined over sexual comments to interviewee – 16 March 2022 - 'Mmm, I like what I see': Law firm owner fined over sexual comments to interviewee | News | Law Gazette
 McKinney, CJ – Solicitor fined £20K after deplorable’ sexual comments to paralegal in job interview – Legal Cheek -16 March 2022 - Solicitor fined £20k after 'deplorable' sexual comments to paralegal in job interview - Legal Cheek
 Rose, Neil - ‘Mmm, I like what I see’: solicitor made sexual comments to interviewee – Legal Futures – 16 March 2022 - "Mmm, I like what I see" - solicitor made sexual comments to interviewee - Legal Futures
 Carr, Stewart – Senior solicitor is ordered to pay £45,000 after he told paralegal ‘‘Mmm, I like what I see’ – Daily Mail - Senior solicitor is ordered to pay £45,000 after he told paralegal 'mmm, I like what I see' | Daily Mail Online
 Section 11 Equality Act 2010
 Section 26 Equality Act 2010
 Section 39 Equality Act 2010
 Section 40 Equality Act 2010