The managing partner of the Belgium office of international law firm Baker McKenzie, Daniel Fesler, has, temporarily, stepped down from his leadership role. The firm confirmed the move as they complete an internal investigation into claims of racism at the firm.
The allegations stem from a departure memo from an attorney at the firm which details a variety of problematic incidents. As reported by Legal Cheek:
The mixed-race lawyer, who we have not named, alleges a series of discriminatory incidents took place during her time at the firm, which include colleagues using the “N word”, touching her hair, and questioning whether a family photo was “a rap album cover”.
She also says she was “yelled at” by a staff member for reporting the use of “blackface” during a traditional “Sinterklass” event and that her work email address indicated only part of her surname as “it would otherwise be confusing for clients”.
The N-word? Blackface?? Touching her hair??? None of this sounds good, indeed, it reads like Racism 4 Dummies.
Baker McKenzie has issued a statement apologizing for the attorney’s experience, and committing to completing the investigation with “immediate priority.” Kirsty Wilson, the firm’s global inclusion, diversity & equity committee chair, said, “We are very sorry and sincerely regret that this individual, and any colleague, has had this experience. We do not tolerate racism, sexism or any form of discrimination, and we take the issues raised in our former colleague’s email extremely seriously.”
“We are absolutely committed to continue building a positive, respectful and truly inclusive culture that lives up to our values as a firm and where all of our people feel they belong,” continued Wilson. “We will do better, and this includes making any changes needed so that all of our people can thrive.”
It’s good to see the global firm taking these allegations seriously. Because the picture they paint of life at Baker McKenzie Belgium is anything but flattering.
Kathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, host of The Jabot podcast, and co-host of Thinking Like A Lawyer. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter @Kathryn1 or Mastodon @Kathryn1@mastodon.social.