One BigLaw Firm’s Response to ‘Inappropriate Personal Conduct’ Demonstrates Its Resilience

Yesterday, the law firm Mayer Brown took the swift and decisive action in terminating one of its high-profile partners, Zac Barnett, for “inappropriate personal conduct” with one of his subordinates. How an organization reacts to crisis and challenge often reveals more about the culture than the crisis or challenge itself. This is particularly true regarding sexual harassment in the #MeToo era and the warranted scrutiny that it brings. In this case, Mayer Brown demonstrates key attributes of resilience.

The foundational element of resilience for an individual or an organization is vision: What do we value, how do we show up in the world, and are those two things congruent? Essentially, are we who we say we are? In an email to the firm’s attorneys, Chairmen Paul Theiss, concisely stated that the improper behavior in question was “contrary to Mayer Brown’s core values.” When a firm or organization is in alignment with their vision and values, they build trust both within the firm and with their clients.

More than that, Mayer Brown promoted a sense of safety. They sent the clear message regarding what will not be tolerated and they backed it up with action. Organizations that actively cultivate resilience before, during, and after a crisis create an environment inhospitable to inappropriate and toxic behavior going forward. Toxic environments breed toxic behavior; healthy environments breed healthy behavior. Healthy environments, healthy behaviors, and healthy resilience creates a continuous feedback loop for a healthy and successful firm.

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