Major International Firm Sued for Discriminating Against Female Partners

Edgar M. Rivera, Esq.

On August 31, 2016, Kerrie Campbell—a seasoned trial lawyer and leading practitioner in the defamation and product disparagement, First Amendment rights and consumer product safety fields—filed a class action complaint in the Southern District of New York against Chadbourne & Parke LLP—an international firm of approximately 400 lawyers and tax advisors, including former New York Governor George Pataki, with over $285 million of annual revenue. Campbell claims that Chadbourne systematically discriminated against its female partners.

According to the complaint, in January 2014, Campbell joined Chadbourne as a lateral partner in the litigation department. Campbell brought in approximately 40 new matters for over 20 clients, generating over $5 million in total revenue for Chadbourne. Campbell’s productivity and revenue generation was consistent with the Chadbourne’s top performing male partner, yet her pay consistently was at the bottom ranks of male partners, who brought far less revenue to Chadbourne. Chadbourne opposed the gender-based pay and asked Chadbourne’s all-male five-member Management Committee, Managing Partner, and Head of the Litigation Department to address and rectify these issues. On February 19, 2016, Chadbourne’s Managing Partner, Andy Giaccia, and Head of the Litigation Department, Abbe Lowell, told Campbell that Campbell’s practice did not “fit” with the “strategic direction” of Chadbourne and that she must leave. To incentivize Campbell’s speedy ouster from Chadbourne, they slashed her pay.

Campbell alleges that Chadbourne tolerates and cultivates a work environment hostile to women. Chadborune at all relevant times has been managed by the entirely male Management Committee and a disproportionately large percentage of the Firm’s Committees and Department Heads are men. The complaint alleges that Chadbourne lacks sufficient standards, quality controls, implementation metrics, transparency and oversight to ensure equal opportunity for women. The class is made up of all female partners who are, have been or will be employed by Chadbourne in the United States from August 2013 until the date of judgment. The individual allegations against Chadbourne are that they retaliated against Campbell by terminating her employment after she complained about pay discrimination.

This lawsuit illustrates the extent to which gender discrimination in the workplace remains widespread and is not limited to low earners or unskilled workers. At large law firms like Chadbourne, women continue to encounter the “glass ceiling.” A recent American Bar Association study found that at law firms nationwide, female attorneys comprise 44.7 percent of law firm associates, but only 18 percent of equity partners. In the last decade, large law firms have made almost no progress towards increasing women’s paltry representation among the ranks of equity partners. The small percentages of women who do become partners discover that they are often paid significantly less than their male counterparts. A 2015 survey by the National Association for Women Lawyers found that the typical female equity partner earns only 80 percent of what a typical male equity partner earns. The survey found that the median compensation, as reported by surveyed law firms, was $504,000 for female equity partners and $629,407 for male equity partners.

If you feel that you have been discriminated against at work because of your gender, please contact The Harman Firm, LLP.