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Aug. 31 — Law firm Chadbourne & Parke systematically mistreats its female partners based on their sex, a former partner charges in a class action filed in federal court in New York ( Campbell v. Chadbourne & Parke LLP , S.D.N.Y., No. 1:16-cv-06832, class complaint filed 8/31/16 ).
Kerrie Campbell alleges she generated more than $5 million in “total collections” in her little more than two years as a partner in the firm’s Washington, D.C., office but was paid consistently less than male partners who originated less—and in some instances, no—business. She complained, and the firm’s all-male management committee secretly voted to oust her from the firm, telling her she didn’t fit Chadbourne’s “strategic direction,” she alleges.
The complaint, which seeks $100 million in damages, was filed Aug. 31 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. It includes claims for discrimination and retaliation under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Equal Pay Act and related laws.
Campbell seeks to represent a class that includes all female lawyers who are, were or will be partners in any of Chadbourne’s U.S. offices at any time between “August 2013 and the date of judgment.”
Class action law firm Sanford Heisler LLP represents Campbell. The firm has had previous success bringing class sex bias claims on behalf of female workers in the pharmaceutical and other industries, most recently obtaining a $19.5 million settlement from Qualcomm Inc. July 26.
In an Aug. 31 statement announcing the lawsuit, David Sanford, Sanford Heisler chairman and lead counsel for Campbell, said Chadbourne “seems to be operating in the dark ages when it comes to gender equality.”
“The mistreatment and pay differential that Ms. Campbell suffered is inexcusable, particularly considering her exemplary service to the firm,” the statement said. “Chadbourne may talk a good game about treating its lawyers fairly and equally, but Ms. Campbell’s allegations show that at Chadbourne gender discrimination is standard operating procedure. The fact that pay inequity is rampant in the law does not excuse Chadbourne’s inequitable compensation scheme.”
Sanford Heisler estimates that Campbell was underpaid by approximately $2.7 million during her time with Chadbourne, according to the statement.
The complaint says Campbell is a seasoned trial lawyer and leading practitioner in the defamation/product disparagement, First Amendment and consumer product safety fields, with more than 29 years of experience. She joined Chadbourne as a “lateral Partner” in January 2014 and originated 40 or more new matters for more than 20 clients in her time with the firm, according to the complaint.
She also garnered positive attention for the firm, including by being recognized as a “Best Lawyer” in the U.S. in the area of First Amendment litigation in 2014, 2015 and 2016, Campbell alleges.
Women face a “glass ceiling” in large law firms throughout the country, the complaint charges, citing an American Bar Association study finding female lawyers make up 44.7 percent of associate attorneys nationwide but just 18.1 percent of equity partners. A 2015 survey by the National Association for Women Lawyers found that even when women do advance to the equity partner ranks, they are paid only 80 percent of what their male counterparts receive, the complaint adds.
Moreover, despite its rank as the 124th largest revenue-grossing firm in the U.S., Chadbourne “stands out for its culture of discrimination against female attorneys,” failing to make the National Law Journal’s most recent list of top 100 firms for women, Campbell says in the complaint.
Campbell was told in February 2016 that she was no longer a fit with the firm after calling out and opposing its gender-based pay and other discrimination, the complaint alleges. The firm’s male managing partner and male head of litigation told her she should leave Chadbourne quickly and “quietly” to “preserve” her reputation and “incentivized” her to do so by slashing her pay to the level of a first-year associate, according to the complaint.
“Chadbourne categorically denies all of Kerrie Campbell’s accusations against the Firm, including her charges of gender discrimination. Ms. Campbell’s complaint against the Firm is riddled with falsehoods and, once the facts are fully presented, the Firm is confident that her allegations will be shown to be completely baseless,” Chadbourne said in a statement provided to Bloomberg BNA Aug. 31.
“Ms. Campbell joined Chadbourne laterally in 2014 and was asked in early 2016 to transition her practice elsewhere when it became apparent that her specific practice did not integrate with the Firm. In similar situations, Chadbourne has taken comparable steps with partners both male and female, without incident,” the statement said.
“Chadbourne’s commitment to the advancement of women dates back over fifty years, when the Firm elected its first female partner in 1964—at a time when such promotions were extremely rare. Female equity partners have served and currently serve on the Firm’s Management Committee, as practice group leaders, and as managing partners of various Firm offices. The Firm was ranked No. 36 on The American Lawyer’s featured ‘A-List’ firms based, among other factors, on its diversity. Chadbourne is proud of its commitment to Firm diversity at all levels, and will fight Ms. Campbell’s attempt to distort the Firm’s record for her personal gain,” according to the firm’s statement.
Campbell is a member of Bloomberg BNA's Product Safety & Liability Reporter advisory board.
To contact the reporter on this story: Patrick Dorrian in Washington at email@example.com
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Text of the complaint is available at http://www.bloomberglaw.com/public/document/Campbell_v_Chadbourne__Parke_LLP_Docket_No_116cv06832_SDNY_Aug_31.
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