Biglaw, Lesbians, Lindquist & Vennum, Sex, Sex Scandals, Summer Associates

Summer Associates of the Day: Sapphic Summers in Lesbianic Lip-Lock?

When we recently lamented the lack of summer associate scandals, in the New York Observer, did we speak too soon? Although we may be in the home stretch, law firm summer associate programs are not yet over — and neither, thankfully, are the salacious tales they generate.

Here’s a story we’ve known about for a while — it happened late last week — which has already surfaced elsewhere on the web. We’ve delayed on reporting about it because we wanted to get more confirmation and give the parties involved a chance to comment.

We reached out to numerous representatives of the firm — managing partner Daryle Uphoff, chief marketing officer Greg Wolsky, recruiting director Lisanne Weisz, diversity coordinator Nancy Vollertsen — by phone and by email, yesterday and today. We also contacted the two summers involved, via Facebook message. Nobody has gotten back to us, despite ample time to do so. We’ll have to push ahead without them.

Since we’ve heard the story from multiple sources, all offering generally consistent accounts, we are fairly confident in its accuracy. But if you have any corrections or additions to offer, please email us (subject line: “Lindquist and Vennum Summer Associate Scandal”).

Here are some of the versions we heard (many tipsters sent it in):

1. Word through the grapevine is that two female summer associates at Minneapolis firm Lindquist & Vennum were fired recently for getting drunk at a firm event and making out with each other.

2. I’m an associate at a large Minneapolis firm, and word is that two female summer associates at Lindquist & Vennum, another of the large firms in town, got drunk at a summer associate event and were making out with each other. They were fired on Friday.

3. [Two summers at] Lindquist & Vennum were fired over the weekend. Drinking was involved; however, the firm supplied it to them during a boat cruise in 90+ degree weather. Can you get this posted? I want more information.

4. I am a summer associate at a Minneapolis law firm. I can tell that you that two female Lindquist and Vennum summer associates were recently fired (within the last week). I could not tell you for sure why they were fired, but the rumor is that they were drunk at some sort of firm social event (one that had partners present), and started to make out with each other.

And they got fired for this? We’re surprised the old-white-male partners didn’t cheer them on.

Update / Correction: According to reports received after this post was published, whether the SAs were “making out” or merely kissing on the lips is unclear. Furthermore, the event in question was not the boat cruise, but a post-dinner gathering at a bar. For an update post containing additional information and corrections, see here.

One tipster pointed us to some corroborating evidence:

Lindquist has removed all photos/references of the two from its summer associate section on its website.

This is true. We verified it ourselves, by comparing the current summer associate page, which lists eight summers, to an older version, which lists ten summers. (But please do not post in the comments any links to archived or cached versions of the page.)

You can read more, if you want to — if you don’t, then don’t — after the jump.

Another source noted the unfortunate timing of the scandal, “a mere month after the firm — renowned Minnesota-wide as one of the ‘Top Five Corporate Law Firms in Minneapolis’ — won a case before the Supreme Court.” This source expressed skepticism towards the story:

I cry b***shit. No way does a firm that does segway tours by a river get their summer associates tipsy enough to drop.

Here’s our take. Segway tours notwithstanding, the story itself sounds legit to us (and has been confirmed by at least half a dozen sources). What’s troubling is the firm’s alleged response: firing two young female lawyers, just starting off in their careers, for getting a little frisky with each other — after they had a bit too much (firm-supplied) alcohol.

Aren’t we trying to encourage women to enter the legal profession? Whatever happened to respect for diversity, which Lindquist & Vennum touts on its website? One of our sources wonders:

Rumor has it this was a couple of girls who got wasted and, perhaps, a little raunchy. Still, though, might there be a slightly different standard at play for women than for boys?

The same-sex angle makes the firm’s reaction even more troubling. True, it’s quite possible (even likely?) that these two women aren’t full-time lesbians — by the way, that’s once again an appropriate use of the term — and were just “experimenting.”

(Corporate, or litigation? Straight, or gay? If you can’t experiment during the summer, when can you?)

But the girl-on-girl action aspect raises a question: Is a double standard at work ? Would a pair of straight summer associates, a male-female couple, have been fired for publicly expressing their affection while on a romantic cruise? Are lesbianic law students measured by a different yardstick?

We raised these concerns about gender and sexual orientation discrimination with the firm’s designated diversity contact, partner Nancy Vollertsen. She never got back to us. Since this is not a criminal proceeding, we draw an adverse inference from her — and the firm’s — silence.

But let’s be fair; in the firm’s defense, the devil is in the details. Just how naughty did the summers get?

If it was just a friendly smooch between an existing couple, you should kick the s*** out of the firm….

If it was a “girls gone wild” kind of thing, query whether the girls were really the only summers involved. I’d imagine at least some of the males in attendance were …. supportive. In which case query whether the firm has appropriately handled them as well.

(Query, as well, why I keep saying “query.”)

Lots of queries, not enough answers. As always, if you have more info, please email us.

Some people object to our coverage of summer associate scandals. We view it as a public service.

Covering the misadventures of summer associates is valuable. When the summer associate is in the wrong, the story is a cautionary tale that educates future summers about what NOT to do. When the firm is in the wrong, the story raises red flags for law students thinking about working for that firm. Either way, additional information is empowering.

If you enjoy reading summer associate stories, please do your part, and tip us off when you know something. Don’t be a free rider! This is a shared enterprise.

You shouldn’t feel guilty about having an ATL story come up whenever a featured summer associate is Googled. We have an anonymity policy for the subject of summer associate stories here at ATL. If you ever see a summer mentioned by name in the comments, please email us, and we will remove the comment (and ban the commenter’s IP address from future commenting).

Consistent with that policy, please do not name the summer associates in question, mention their law schools, or provide any additional identifying information about them, in the comments. It’s especially true in this case, where there is a decent argument that the fired summer associates are actually the victims. Thanks.

Update: Here are some interesting (and amusing) reactions from the readers of Jezebel.

Further Update: For additional information about this matter, please see The Sapphic Summers: Fall Gals for Broader Debauchery?.

In addition, partner Nancy Vollertsen issued a brief comment to the City Pages of Minneapolis:

“We have a great summer program and we don’t make employment decisions on a discriminatory basis.”

Beyond that, she declined to either confirm or deny what has been written about the alleged firings, citing the privacy of the employees.

Tart Reform! Facing Heat, Legal Ladies and Laddies Stay Buttoned [New York Observer]

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