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No, #MeToo hasn’t gone away. Over the last few months we’ve heard revisionist voices claiming that #MeToo was a set of over-reactions to a disappearing problem, but what have we here? Not one, but two further developments this week. A Clyde & Co partner has left the firm over ‘inappropriate behaviour’, while Simmons & Simmons’ investigation into Baker McKenzie’s own harassment incident found that the global firm’s processes had significant shortcomings.
There will be more outcomes of this nature over the coming months; it’s clear that while firms are trying to address the reporting processes, there is a continuing lack of trust among associates in the partnership and in particular HR.
The Lawyer’s wide-scale survey in March this year revealed that half of the respondents said that their firms treated sexual harassment seriously, a third didn’t know what their firms were actually doing on the subject. Worse, nearly two-thirds of respondents who said they’d experienced sexual harassment claimed their firm dealt with it ‘poorly, ‘abysmally’, or ‘ignored it altogether’. That is a category in which Bakers now finds itself. Meanwhile, HR professionals’ failure to inspire confidence ought to result in a long hard look at exactly what they’re there for.
Separately, Mark Hastings, Quinn Emanuel’s star oligarch litigator, who departed the firm in, shall we say, turbulent circumstances earlier this year, has found a berth at Grosvenor Law. It’s a slightly distorted echo of a trend The Lawyer has picked up as part of its Independents report (UK200 firms 101-200), in which we observed that several grew headcount via recruiting partners from much larger firms. Outfits such as Keystone – now in the top 100 – have famously grown through hiring disaffected City talent: while not offering the bucks of Kirkland or Latham, smaller firms are trading heavily on work-life balance and cultural intimacy.
The set of firms in the 101-200 is volatile, and is likely to shift further in the course of the year. Promotion to the top 100 aside, there have also been six new entrants into the ‘Independents’ category (you can read who they are here) while the number of firms with a drop in turnover was at its lowest level for three years. On this basis, the Independents have a good story to tell: expect a little more swagger from this group in the next financial year.
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