The UK’s Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) is to update its guidance for people making allegations of harassment, following a steady increase in reports.
The SRA chief executive Paul Philip has written to the House of Commons women and equalities committee stating the regulator currently has 50 ongoing cases, up from 23 in March this year. Mr Philip wrote, ‘we have seen a steady increase in reports about sexual harassment and the improper use of NDAs since these issues began to receive more attention in the legal sector and since we published our warning notice’ in March. The updated guidance will cover the use of unfair contract terms, using clear language in settlement agreements and the requirement to balance duties in litigation. This will comprise a further warning notice and an update of the SRA’s ‘Walking the Line’ report, with both being be published this autumn. Maria Miller MP, chair of the committee, said ‘we know that employers are falling down in their responsibilities to create safe working environments. It’s vital, therefore, that those who oversee employers and professions step up to the mark in setting expectations and taking action where sexual harassment takes place.’ However, she said progress is being made in some sectors, including the legal profession.
Big law cases
An internal investigation at global law firm Clyde & Co has led to the departure of a partner at a UK office following allegations of inappropriate behavior. According to a report in Australia’s Lawyers Weekly the nature and scope of the behaviour involved is not disclosed, but in a statement the firm said it is committed to a working environment that is inclusive, professional and respectful, explaining ‘we hold ourselves to the highest standards of behaviour and expect all of our partners and staff to act with integrity, maintain high ethical standards and to respect local and global regulatory environments at all times.’ The statement explained, ‘allegations of inappropriate behaviour were made against a partner. When the allegations came to light, we carried out an internal investigation. The outcome of the investigation is that the partner has been dismissed from the firm with immediate effect. Out of respect for the privacy of those concerned we will not be commenting further.’ Last week, Baker McKenzie said a review it had commissioned into a historic allegation of sexual assault had identified a ‘number of shortcomings’ the handling of the complaint and ‘very much regrets’ what has happened.