Willoughbys in court on race discrimination claim

A former fee-earning employee has taken leading intellectual property practice, Willoughby & Partners, to a tribunal over allegations of racism.

The race discrimination claim has been brought by an Afro-Caribbean trainee who claims he was forced out of the firm because of his colour.

“This sort of behaviour needs to be brought to account. There has to be a reason why Afro-Caribbean men in particular are under-represented in corporate and commercial law,” he says.

The applicant was taken on as a paralegal with a view to being offered a training contract.

He claims that when such a post became available he was not considered, and that it was offered to someone with less experience and with personal connections to the senior partner of the firm, Peter Rouse.

He also says that he had been told that the firm was not taking on any trainees.

Willoughby's equal opportunities policy states that “full consideration will be given to all present employees with regard to internal vacancies”.

The applicant also claims that former recruitment partner, Sarah Corbett, said he would be offered a training contract at Willoughby's if he were to find a short-term placement at another firm first.

When he found such a placement he was still not offered a contract.

Willoughby's strongly denies any allegations of racism.

Rouse, now a partner at Rouse & Co, who the allegations are directed at, says: “I feel very strongly about this. I am totally unconcerned by race, creed or colour and I take it personally.”

Judgment was reserved at the hearing at Stratford Employment Tribunal, but a decision is expected by the end of this month.