A partner at Freeths has been fined £4,000 for using the word "poofter" in remarks about a gay trainee.
Charles Darby, a commercial lawyer at the national firm, used the offensive term last July during Friday afternoon drinks with staff.
In response to a colleague's comment that it had become acceptable in certain circumstances to refer to travellers as gypsies, Darby asked whether it was also okay to refer to a homosexual trainee, who was present at the social event, as a "poofter".
The trainee overheard and asked Darby to repeat himself, which he did, asking again if it was acceptable to refer to him as a "poofter".
The trainee complained to Freeths, which investigated and decided Darby had used offensive language. It sanctioned him with a reprimand and a warning to watch his conduct for the next two years.
Darby tackling a straightforward social interaction.
Darby offered to say sorry to the trainee, and in September he reported himself to the SRA over the matter. He also reported himself at the same time for a failure to comply with SRA Accounts Rules when he allowed a client to receive money from a debtor via the firm's client account even though Freeths had not acted in the underlying transaction.
The SRA fined Darby £4,000. Noting that the partner had co-operated with the regulator and agreed to the publication of his embarrassments, it said that as a manager of Freeths he was "expected to have a greater understanding of the need to respect and encourage diversity and of the SRA’s rules about handing client money".
It's been a terrible week for Freeths. This week it announced a redundancy consultation which could result in 80 lawyers and business staff losing their jobs. Blaming Covid, Freeths chairman Colin Flanagan said, "I am greatly saddened and disappointed that, as a result of external circumstances beyond our control, we are going to lose some of our excellent team members".