Peter Walmsley, a former partner at international law firm Clyde & Co — 69th on the 2021 Global 200, was publicly rebuked by the U.K. regulatory body Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA). Why you ask? Well, it dates back to a 2017 incident… at a strip club. As soon as you read that, you just know nothing good’s going to happen. Seriously, the rebuke says that “seniority and intoxication were aggravating factors,” and if that doesn’t just have the ring of truth to it.
Anyway, as reported by Legal Cheek, Walmsley was at a client event with other attorneys including a female trainee, referred to as AB. As the evening wore on, the group looked for a “venue that offered late night drinking.” And it turned out they stumbled into a strip club. But rather than find another — seriously, any other — bar, the following occurred:
The bar turned out to have a sexual entertainment licence and was staffed by “women wearing underwear” who offered private dances in the back. The SRA decision states that “neither Mr Walmsley nor AB realised the nature of the Club until prior to entry”.
AB was uncomfortable but felt that she should stay for a little while so as not to embarrass the clients. This discomfort was “compounded” by Walmsley, then 44, putting his arm around her waist while the two were sitting together in a booth.
The SRA found that this was done “openly, and without any improper or sexual motivation” and that the partner was “unaware at the time of AB’s discomfort”.
But it concluded that his “failure to have sufficient regard” for AB’s well-being had “caused her to experience discomfort and distress”. Walmsley admitted that he should have acted differently and that the incident amounted to misconduct.
Walmsley agreed to the written rebuke.
According to reports, Clyde & Co fired Walmsley in October 2018 after inappropriate behavior complaints.
A spokesperson pointed to a statement issued at the time of his dismissal:
“Clyde & Co is committed to a working environment that is inclusive, professional and respectful. 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 respect local and global regulatory environments at all times. We do not tolerate inappropriate behaviour.”
But Walmsley’s current firm, British insurance firm Horwich Farrelly, has a decidedly different take:
“This incident occurred over 5 years ago and Peter Walmsley now manages a very successful team at Horwich Farrelly. During his time here he has performed with impeccable conduct and with the full support of his team and clients who were made fully aware of the facts.
“Horwich Farrelly take issues of this nature very seriously and agree with the SRA findings that Peter should not have put himself or others in this position. The SRA have noted that there was absolutely no intent from Peter on the evening in question to attend a club of that nature, and there was no sexual or inappropriate motive or intent behind his actions.”
It continued: “Immediately after the event, and in the years since, Peter has shown that he has taken the matter extremely seriously and regrets the incident wholeheartedly. He has focused on his personal development to ensure he always puts the wellbeing of every team member first, in every situation. It is due to his constructive approach since the event that Horwich Farrelly believed he deserved the chance to further his career.”
But maybe someone else should be in charge of late night events, ya know?
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).