Biglaw, Gender, Labor / Employment, Partner Issues, Women's Issues

Ex-Reed Smith Partner Drops Sex Discrimination Suit Against the Firm

JoEllen Lyons Dillon

Back in December, we covered a gender discrimination lawsuit filed by JoEllen Lyons Dillon, a comely corporate partner at Reed Smith, against the firm (where she still worked at the time). Dillon’s allegations were salacious. She claimed, for example, that “work was diverted … to female attorneys who were willing to engage in sexual relations with members of management” — and that her refusal to engage in such relations hurt her at Reed Smith.

Dillon’s case was filed by Samuel J. Cordes, a prominent Pittsburgh employment lawyer. Despite his somewhat cheesy law firm motto, Cordes is well-regarded and seen as “only tak[ing] good cases,” according to one ATL tipster. Cordes promised that his client would, over the course of the litigation, produce specific examples of sexual quid pro quos at Reed Smith. Delicious!

Alas, today brings word that JoEllen Dillon has dropped her case. What happened?

Here’s a report from the Pittsburgh Tribune Review:

A Squirrel Hill lawyer who sued her firm in federal court for gender discrimination voluntarily dismissed the lawsuit today, according to court documents.

JoEllen Lyons Dillon claimed the supervising partners at Reed Smith LLP routinely sent work to junior male attorneys or to female attorneys willing to have sex with them while she had to scrounge up almost all of her own cases.

Nice turn of phrase: “she had to scrounge up almost all of her own cases.” In case you’re wondering, yes, Dillon was a non-equity partner at Reed Smith. Equity partners don’t do “scrounging.”

U.S. District Judge Nora Barry Fischer approved the dismissal of the case. Lawyers for both sides couldn`t immediately be reached for comment.

Yup, that’s right, the parties settled — and Dillon no longer works at the firm. Gina Passarella of the Legal Intelligencer reports:

Dillon’s attorney, Samuel J. Cordes of Samuel J. Cordes & Associates in Pittsburgh, said Thursday only that “the matter has been resolved to our mutual satisfaction.”

He couldn’t comment as to whether Dillon would continue to work at Reed Smith, but she has been removed from the firm’s website. The parties had two rounds of mediation before reaching a resolution. A spokeswoman for the law firm said the firm would have no comment on the suit’s dismissal, but she did confirm Dillon no longer works for Reed Smith.

David DeNinno

And you know who’s also on the way out at Reed Smith? One of Dillon’s erstwhile adversaries. JoEllen Dillon claimed that David DeNinno, former chair of the Business & Finance Department at RS, made snide remarks to her about whether she was “done having babies yet.” Apparently DeNinno is departing:

Word leaked last week from several sources that Reed Smith was in negotiations for DeNinno to leave the firm. He said last week that he would not confirm, deny or discuss the situation and the firm had declined comment as well. DeNinno did not return a call for additional comment Thursday.

DeNinno is said by many to be a top corporate partner at the firm with a substantial book of business.

We wish all the parties well, but we’re still sad about the settlement. This case had such great potential for airing dirty laundry — but now Reed Smith’s secrets will never see the light of day. Sigh.

Squirrel Hill lawyer pulls discrimination suit against her firm [Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]
Female Partner Drops Gender Discrimination Suit Against Reed Smith
[Legal Intelligencer (subscription)]

Earlier: Discrimination Lawsuit Potpourri: Reed Smith and Akin Gump

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