Baker McKenzie unveils 3-step plan to tackles Johannesburg management issues
The plan was necessitated following Johannesburg managing partner Morné van der Merwe decided to quit
The Chicago-based international firm Baker McKenzie has unveiled a 'three-step plan' to tackle the leadership issue in its Johannesburg office in South Africa.
The plan includes a change in leadership and measures to make it easier for staff to raise confidential concerns about their treatment.
The decision to implement the news three-step plan was triggered by the unexpected decision of its Johannesburg managing partner Morné van der Merwe's decision to quit, although the firm insisted that it had been carefully reviewing issues relating to the office's management for the past few months.
There is some confusion about the South African leadership. While Baker McKenzie said Van der Merwe had put in his papers way back in April, officially he continues to be listed as the firm's managing partner of the Johannesburg office. It is understood that Van der Merwe's duties are being handled by partners from the firm's Amsterdam office. There is no clarification yet on the reason leading to Van der Merwe's decision to quit.
According to reports, the plan has three headings: 'a change in leadership', 'listening to and reviewing people's concerns', and 'a commitment to the future and commercial success of this office'.
"Global and local leadership are clear that this is an ongoing process and that it will take time, and therefore, we are not in a position to comment further on various issues and actions at present," a Baker spokesperson quoted as saying.
"However, the firm is determined to create a positive working environment and foster an inclusive culture, and is doing this using systems previously put in place to ensure we only tolerate the highest standards of conduct in our workplaces," the spokesperson added.
The firm has confirmed reports that two of its partners based in the Amsterdam office were currently supporting the Johannesburg office. They are closely connected with the firm's operations in South African due to a history of shared mandates.
Baker is also in the process of appointing an HR lead for its Johannesburg office.
The firm has declared that while it took any concerns 'extremely seriously' when raised, it was 'taking additional steps to enhance a confidential workplace behaviour escalation system… which will enable any person to come forward with any concerns with the confidence that these are being treated appropriately and confidentially'.
It added that the transitional leadership team, along with regional and global leaders would be joining existing employee forums to listen to any concerns.