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Sexual harassment is rife in law firms: I should know

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Sexual harassment is rife in law firms: I should know

Not content with being a member of one of the world’s least-loved professions, last week saw former Freshfields partner Ryan Beckwith appeal against a 2019 sexual misconduct finding, claiming to have been “caught on the shifting sands of attitudes towards sexual behaviour”.

Despite only being fined an amount so paltry that a rustle of his wipe-clean Natuzzi sofa cushions could have sufficed payment, Beckwith feels hard done by, poor mite.

Having a sexual encounter with a boozed-up junior in your charge when you work for one of the most powerful firms in the world has more than a whiff of the deeply unpleasant about it. A smell that has lingered long after 2019.

Beckwith, a married man who strikes you as the sort who strives to augment his lacklustre personality with quirky sock choices, recently broke cover at FTSE 250 flexible office space provider IWG. Another move he’s probably regretting.

sexual harassment

If one needed more proof that the Solicitors Regulation Authority and the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal do not give two hoots about sexual harassment, cue this week’s instalment: Legal “old boy” Samuel Charkham was fined something akin to a shilling and tuppence for… wait for it… wearing a KKK paper hat whilst chatting to black female colleague and groping the bottom of a female staff member on no less than 18 separate occasions.

He’s still allowed to be a solicitor. Apparently, he’s just got an “old fashioned sense of humour”. Sure. Lols. These stories appear regularly. Unchecked and unabated.


As a senior female lawyer, I have endured a helpful colleague tucking in rogue clothing labels, his clammy paw lingering on my back for much longer than a six-minute increment of chargeable time; I have arrived at a conference to be told by a senior partner we are sharing the only room available; been asked to play golf wearing hot pants and heels; and been cornered in the library one evening by a whisky-reeking litigation partner.

As a senior female lawyer, I have been pawed by colleagues and asked to play golf wearing hot pants

By the SRA’s own count, 49 per cent of lawyers are women, with women making up 75 per cent of other staff in law firms. Their treatment at the hands of the SRA and SDT has been, and continues to be, a professional disgrace.

Let’s see how Beckwith fares on appeal. If there is any justice within these lofty, tarnished institutions, they would do well to replace “shifting sands” with quicksand.

Reference: Evening Standard: 

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