Clifford Chance’s balancing act: damned if they do, damned if they don’t

What do you do when one of your staff exercises their right to free speech online? That’s the dilemma which has faced Clifford Chance since trainee Aysh Chaudhry posted a YouTube video expressing Islamist views.

While Clifford Chance is balancing on the ethical high wire, desperate not to lose its footing, we reveal today that other firms are scrambling to put in place procedures to handle such situations.

Chaudhry’s outburst is particularly troubling because it falls between two issues: one is that of the firm’s reputation being brought into disrepute and the other is freedom of speech.

If Clifford Chance does decide to discipline Chaudhry, he can counter-claim that the firm is discriminating against his religious views. If it chooses to do nothing, it will open itself up to claims of moral cowardice from many quarters.

In a globalised world, in which law firms hurriedly chase clients from all four corners of the world, performing this balancing act is increasingly difficult.

As one graduate recruitment partner said yesterday: “It’s reputational kryptonite.”

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