"No way this will come back to haunt us."
A senior associate at Allens, the Australian firm in a global alliance with Linklaters, has outed himself as having sexually harassed a colleague. She has expressed outrage that he is now being considered for promotion.
Fiona Thatcher was a junior lawyer in Timothy Leschke's infrastructure projects team when, she said, late on Friday night in July 2015 he sent her a string of texts suggesting sex.
Leschke, who was an associate, then appeared at her apartment complex and rang her security buzzer for 5 minutes, reported the Australia Financial Review, and sent her a similarly suggestive text the following morning.
Thatcher made a formal complaint to Allens the next week, backed up by her father who had been visiting her and who identified Leschke.
Allens' two-day investigation concluded that Leschke had sexually harassed her, but accepted his excuse that he had been drunk. It gave him a warning, told him to apologise to Thatcher, and ordered him to work from home for a week.
Thatcher was permitted to move from her office adjacent to Leschke's, but was not allowed to swap to a different team, and Leschke continued to work in the same team as Thatcher until she left Allens five months later.
Leschke, according to AFR, outed himself on Monday to his colleagues in Allens' Brisbane office after a story about the episode which did not name him appeared in the Australian press. His admission was apparently greeted with applause, which is understood to have upset some female staff.
Thatcher told RollOnFriday of her frustration at the rise of Leschke in Allens' ranks, where he is understood to be on the partnership track.
”Despite privately apologising to me and admitting certain failings, their continued support of him speaks volumes”, she said.
“Allens' response to what Leschke did, both then and now, sends a chilling message to all current and former employees that we should stay silent. My inbox is full of messages from Allens alumni with their own stories of abuse”.
”The weak, cowardly, harmful position Allens has taken makes you wonder what else they have to hide”, she said.
Thatcher told AFR there was a culture at the firm "where all that matters is how much you work and how technically proficient you are, and you’re managed by people who are good lawyers but don’t have emotional intelligence”.
That environment meant “it seems normal that there’s constantly people crying in the women’s bathroom”, she said. “It’s just this factory line of high-achieving young men and women who get spat back out broken, and that’s just so sad. Where is the accountability for that?”
Leschke told AFR he “deeply regretted” his conduct towards Thatcher and “unreservedly apologised” to her.
“No one should have to tolerate conduct of that nature. My actions were inexcusable and well below the standards expected of a decent human being”, he said.
Leschke said he had sought to hold himself to a higher standard since. “It is possible for people to make bad mistakes, learn from them and change,” he said, adding that men needed to “take responsibility for addressing this issue”.
Note: The AFR story originally stated that the texts sent by Leschke “aggressively” demanded sex and that he rang Thatcher’s buzzer for 15 minutes, not 5. AFR subsequently amended its story, and references to its account have been updated.