Old People, Partner Issues

Kelley Drye Strikes Back at the EEOC and Ancient De-equitized Partner

Earlier this year, the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission sued Kelley Drye & Warren for stripping aging partners of equity in the firm.

Here at ATL, we have mixed feelings about the elderly. In an ATL debate over mandatory retirement policies at law firms, Elie endorsed kicking old partners to the curb, while I objected to age discrimination policies. The EEOC also sees age bias in mandatory retirement.

Five years ago, Sidley Austin paid $27.5 million to settle a EEOC complaint on behalf of 32 de-equitized partners. But it looks like Kelley Drye will resist settling, and is not afraid to rough up the ‘decrepit’ New York partner, Eugene D’Ablemont, who wants to keep raking in the big bucks…

Kelley Drye New York parnter Eugene D'Ablemont, 79 and de-equitized

Kelley Drye de-equitizes partners at age 70. Eugene D’Ablemont, a Fordham Law ’59 grad and former head of the firm’s labor and employment practice, thinks that’s elder abuse.

From the Chicago Tribune:

Eugene D’Ablemont chose to continuing working when he turned 70 in 2001… Even though he routinely has obtained over $1 million in fees annually from his clients, he has been underpaid compared with younger lawyers at the firm with similar productivity, the EEOC said.

His unhappiness grew in 2007 when Kelley Drye had a windfall from a contingency case that he did not share in, according to people familiar with the firm. The firm’s profit per partner jumped 39 percent that year, to $1.26 million, according to American Lawyer magazine.

In February 2008, D’Ablemont submitted a claim with the EEOC. The commission also charges that the firm cut his bonus in 2008 to $25,000 from $75,000, in retaliation for filing his complaint.

Kelley Drye is fighting the complaint, reports the New York Law Journal (via ABA Journal), claiming that D’Ablemont is a “life partner” — taking part in firm management and financial decision-making — and not an employee, and thus not entitled to federal employee protections.

The firm, represented by Proskauer Rose, also claimed that D’Ablemont isn’t a very good employee partner to boot. It lays the smackdown in the fifteenth affirmative defense in its answer to the EEOC complaint [PDF from the NYLJ]:

D’Ablemont’s compensation as a Life Partner has been entirely non- discriminatory, non-retaliatory and fair considering, inter alia:
a) shortly after he became a Life Partner, he transferred to other Partners the billing credit for all of his matters and the billing responsibility for most of his matters;
b) for certain of the clients he now purports to claim credit for, he does little, if anything, beyond the ministerial act of preparing and sending them a bill;
c) during the last five years his billable hours have ranged from 195.4 to 324.2 hours per year, which is an average of 7 to 10 times less, annually, than the hours he billed prior to becoming a Life Partner;

Apparently, he is the minister of low hours.

It sounds like D’Ablemont sought out discretionary compensation after Kelley Drye took away his equity:

d) he has demanded and received tens of thousands of dollars of free legal services from Firm attorneys for himself and his relatives that he was not entitled to, representing that he and/or the relative would pay for these services and then objected to doing so;
e) he has demanded and received client development allowances far in excess of what he is entitled to under the formula used for other Partners;
f) he has received direct monetary payments from third parties, while also soliciting and receiving a bonus from the Firm, contrary to the Firm’s Partnership Agreement and the directive of the Firm’s Executive Committee,
g) he has a history of objectionable behavior inconsistent with the expectations for a Kelley Drye Partner.

That sounds juicy. Unfortunately, the firm chose not to elaborate.

Apparently, respect for one’s elders goes out the window when they hit you with an age discrimination complaint.

Kelley Drye Responds to Age Bias Suit: ‘Life Partners’ Not Employees [New York Law Journal via ABA Journal]
EEOC sues law firm for age discrimination [Chicago Tribune, hosted on AARP.org]

Earlier: Mandatory Retirement Age for Partners: An ATL Debate

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