Pennsylvania legal circles are buzzing over a discriminationlawsuit filed yesterday in federal district court by a partner in the Pittsburgh office of Reed Smith. One source who informed us of the suit referred to “some really interesting allegations” against the firm.
A corporate and energy law partner at Reed Smith, JoEllen Lyons Dillon, alleges that her firm pays and promotes women less than men. Yawn; that’s definitely not “really interesting.” While unfortunate — or even outrage-inducing — if true, one could say the same thing about dozens, if not hundreds, of large law firms.
Far more interesting is Dillon’s claim that “work was diverted … to female attorneys who were willing to engage in sexual relations with members of [Reed Smith] management or with whom members of [Reed Smith] management had sought to engage in such relations.” Dillon alleges that because she “did not engage in such relations,” she was professionally penalized.
Dillon decided instead to have “relations” with her husband, resulting in the birth of twins. After she took time off to take care of the two tots, “her total compensation decreased, by almost half,” according to the complaint. Dillon claims that when she objected to this pay cut, partner David DeNinno, former chair of the Business & Finance Department at RS, asked if she was “done having babies yet.”
That’s just for starters. Dillon claims to have more dirt on her firm….
The Harvard-Yale Game was this weekend. I didn’t attend. I’m at that uncomfortable age where I’m too old to go to The Game and get black-out drunk at the keg, but too young to show up in a fur coat handing out glasses of Cristal (rhymes with “Mystal”) while my butler grills porterhouse steaks out of the back of my Range Rover.
I look forward to going to The Game in the future, but I’m really glad I didn’t go this year. If I had, I might have been arrested. Seriously, you would have logged on to Above the Law this morning and been entertained by my “Letter From a Boston Jail” or something.
Because if I had gone to The Game, I probably would have gone to the party hosted by the Harvard’s Black Law Student Association (and other affinity groups) at a new Boston club called Cure Lounge. And had I gone to that, when the club owners shut down the party essentially because too many black people were gathering in one place, I would have had major objections and been thrown in jail for “being an angry black person in Boston” (or whatever the hell they are calling it these days).
CORRECTION: According to the Harvard BLSA president, “Harvard BLSA was not involved in organizing or running the party in question…. [T]he event was run by a group that is not affiliated with Harvard BLSA or Harvard Law School. Harvard BLSA did cover the ticket cost of several members who attended the party.”
I wouldn’t have been able to adjust quickly enough to being back in a place like Boston, so I would have gone nuclear when somebody suggested that too many African-American Harvard and Yale students might attract “gang-bangers.”
Was there a lawyer in the line outside the club who could have objected? Actually, it wouldn’t have mattered….
It seems like such a simple proposition: if a police officer stops you, he has to have a reason. He doesn’t have to have to be right. He doesn’t even need a particularly good reason. He just needs a legitimate reason.
And the reason can’t be based on the color of a person’s skin.
Why is this simple rule so hard for our law enforcement officers to understand? Why do they resist it? Why do they get defensive when civilians ask them to state their legitimate reasons (if any) for pulling somebody over? Why do police act like the motivations of the police are beyond questioning? Why can’t they answer a direct question about their reasons for pulling people over?
The reason can’t be based on the color of a person’s skin.
Why is it so hard for some police officers and administrators to accept that? Why does the Department of Justice need to send threatening letters to the LAPD, reminding them that they have to actually investigate claims of racial profiling and harassment?
There is nothing I hate more than people who try to use the law to change the facts of history or science. I hate when Creationists try to take their Sunday School teachings into science class. I hate when Confederates try to retell the “War of Northern Aggression” in a way that ignores the abject racism that started the entire conflict. And I hate when parents sue because history textbooks aren’t sanitized to include enough bunny rabbits and rainbows when they are educating children about slavery.
That last thing is new. I only realized parents like this existed when I read a story in the Macomb Daily (gavel bang: ABA Journal). Apparently an African-American parent got angry over “outrageous statements” in a textbook used in his daughter’s class. The outrage: the textbook used the n-word… in the context of teaching children about the history of slavery in this country.
He claims his daughter was traumatized by the book, and he’s seeking more than $25,000 damages from the school.
Please God, let’s hope he doesn’t get it. Everybody should be “traumatized” by slavery when they first hear about it in grade school. It was a goddamn traumatic thing to put people through. And we can’t live in a world where that trauma is banished from our history books….
UPDATE (7/25/2011): Please note that this case, making allegations that Jones Day describes as “baseless and inflammatory,” has been dismissed.
Oh boy. Discrimination lawsuits filed by former employees against law firms can get pretty salacious. But we haven’t seen a complaint this juicy since Allgood v. Williams Mullen (aka the “cucumber incident”), or maybe Braude v. Maron Marvel (girl-on-girl sexual harassment in Delaware).
This latest lawsuit is captioned Nelson v. Jones Day. It was actually filed back in September, but it only seems to be coming to light now. It was covered last week by eBossWatch, then picked up today by the ABA Journal.
The allegations — which include claims of Jones Day partners and staff supervisors using racial slurs, junior associates “treat[ing] office staff like servants,” and office affairs and sex scandals — are not to be missed….
If you spend any time around criminal defense lawyers, progressive lawyers, or people in a black barber shop, you’ll hear the claim that African-American criminal defendants receive harsher sentences than their white counterparts. People have done studies about this, people have written reports about this, people have held conferences about this institutional expression of discrimination.
Rarely do we see anybody trying to do anything about it. There are many reasons this fundamental unfairness persists, but only one of those reasons makes any sense: at the end of the day, nobody wants to be more lenient on a convicted criminal just because that criminal is black. And nobody wants to be more harsh towards a white criminal just because he’s white. So while we have these wide variations in sentencing outcomes, judges can’t re-balance the system from the bench. They have to sentence the criminal in front of them.
But that doesn’t mean judges are blind to the racial injustice of the system. And it doesn’t mean that judges can’t do what they have to in order to make sure that a particular punishment fits the crime.
I’m sure that Judge Joseph Williams of Allegheny County, Pennsylvania, will be making all of those arguments shortly. Because he just threw out a plea on the grounds that the prosecutor had been too lenient on the young criminal, just because the criminal is white.
And to be clear, this wasn’t a passing or offhand remark from Judge Williams. Instead, he really laid into the prosecutor in this case…
As I was putting together last Friday’s post about the challenges faced by Duke Law School in recruiting minorities, I had this Gchat conversation with former ATL editor and Duke alum, Kashmir Hill (paraphrased and annotated in various places):
KASH: Good post. But one issue: there are actually a lot of black people living in Durham.
ELIE: Not to pull a Nifong but I don’t think I’ll get a lot of blowback by suggesting Durham isn’t a bastion of racial harmony.
KASH: Yes, there are tensions, but there are a lot of African-Americans who live in Durham.
ELIE: And it’s certainly not a ‘black city’ like Atlanta or anything.
KASH: Yes, but a lot of black people live there. I’d change it.
ELIE: You’re missing the point. The point is whether or not Durham is a welcoming place for blacks.
KASH: But you wrote that there “aren’t a lot of brothers in Durham,” and there are.
ELIE: For Christ’s sake, I’m not saying no black person has ever set foot in Durham. I’m saying that Durham isn’t a black city. Maybe it looks like a black city to white people who get freaked out when they see two brothers on a corner, but it’s not a black city.
KASH: Maybe it looks like a white city to people freaked out by cold, hard demographic statistics.
ELIE: [increasingly annoyed]: Look, NOBODY is going to give me s**t for a throwaway line that’s a segue from a Chris Rock joke to the larger point I’m trying to make. It’s one line in a 1500-word post. Come on.
KASH: [remembering/enjoying that she no longer has to work with me]: Just saying dude… lots of black people in Durham.
350-plus comments, numerous emails, and a boatload of tweets later, it appears that I was wrong. Dead wrong. Much to my surprise, people were very invested in the “but Durham has black friends” argument.
Fair enough. There are a lot of black people living in Durham, and I was wrong to suggest anything else. Next time I want to hang out with a bunch of black people, instead of going to Atlanta or Zimbabwe, I’ll go to Durham, North Carolina. Happy?
Now that I’ve accepted that Durham has a healthy population of African-Americans, can we get back to the discussion about whether or not black people actually want to live there? Because the people at Duke Law School seem to think that Durham is holding them back when it comes to minority recruitment, and I doubt that quoting demographic data is really what prospective minority law students are looking for…
Why? Well, that’s what Duke Law wants to find out. A tipster reports that Duke Law has been sending around a questionnaire to the few minority students currently at the school. It aims to figure out what recruiters should tell minority students thinking about matriculating at Duke Law.
You know what they say — there is no such thing as a stupid question…
We’ve come a long way from the days when federal courts issued orders banning racial discrimination. Now federal judges hand down orders mandating, or at least encouraging, race-based discrimination.
As reported in the American Lawyer, earlier this week Judge Harold Baer (S.D.N.Y.) issued an unusual order. On Monday, Judge Baer directed two firms serving as lead counsel in a securities class action to “make every effort” to staff the case with at least one minority and one woman:
ORDERED that Co-Lead Counsel, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP and Labaton Sucharow LLP, shall make every effort to assign to this matter at least one minority lawyer and one woman lawyer with requisite experience….
If federal judges can run school districts and prison systems, law firms should be a piece of cake, right?
That’s when this becomes a civil rights issue. Minorities and other low income groups, who overwhelmingly live in the outer boroughs, are far more affected by transit cuts and increasing highway spending than their largely white counterparts who live in wealthier neighborhoods.
Title III of the Civil Rights Act prohibits state and municipal governments from denying access to public facilities on grounds of race, religion, gender, or ethnicity, where as Title VI, prevents discrimination by government agencies that receive federal funding. If an agency is found in violation of Title VI, that agency can lose its federal funding.
While the cuts were not made to be discriminatory, in practice they violate both the above titles.
Bet you never thought infrastructure could be racist. Read more on Alt Transport…
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.