Litigation against law firms: it’s all the rage right now. Earlier this week, Sara Randazzo of Am Law Daily did a round-up of over a dozen lawsuits in which law firms have been named as defendants.
Such lawsuits come, and such lawsuits go. Let’s look at the “going” side of the ledger. A federal judge just dismissed the high-profile lawsuit filed by Yolanda Young — a pundit, published memoirist (affiliate link), and Georgetown-trained lawyer, as noted on her website bio — against the elite D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling….
I’m starting to think that staff attorneys are being discriminated against because they are staff attorneys.
Today Thomson Reuters reports that a racial discrimination lawsuit has been filed against Quinn Emanuel by a former staff attorney. The plaintiff, who is African-American, claims that she was given less desirable work than her white colleagues and that she was forced to work with a person she “feared,” as retaliation for complaining about her treatment at the firm.
I’m not sure if racism really fits into Quinn’s work hard/play hard firm culture. I feel like the only color Quinn cares about is green, as in, “You’ve billed a ton of hours today despite being all kinds of hungover, I think you’re turning green”….
* What’s the secret to lawyer happiness? And no, it doesn’t involve illegal drugs or porn stars (Charlie Sheen isn’t a lawyer). [Slaw via Legal Blog Watch]
* Want to start your own law blog? Read this interesting interview with BL1Y (a regular in the ATL comments section). [Lawyerist]
* Superstar criminal defense lawyer John Dowd, the Akin Gump partner who successfully got Monica Goodling (among many other clients) out of legal trouble, offered a rousing defense of Raj Rajaratnam today. [Dealbreaker]
* Congratulations to a 3L at NYU Law and future S.D.N.Y. law clerk, Eli Northrup, who belongs to a hip-hop band called Pants Velour — which has, in the words of our tipster, “captured the magic of Charlie Sheen as only music can.” [YouTube]
If you are new to Above the Law, you might not remember Yolanda Young. She’s an African-American woman who used to work as a staff attorney at Covington & Burling. Some time ago, she sued the firm for racial and gender discrimination. You can read all about her claims here.
Regular readers of this site are already thinking: “Wait, didn’t that suit get dismissed?” ATL veterans are working on their obese/race-baiting/marine mammal mad libs as we speak.
But before we get to those fresh horrors, you all should know something: a federal judge has reinstated part of Yolanda Young’s case against Covington…
* Crocs have no teeth when it comes to fighting legal battles. The footwear company has settled five design defect lawsuits filed by parents whose children suffered escalator injuries. [On Point News]
* Yolanda Young’s suit against Covington & Burling is back on. [BLT]
* The ATL editors are not the only legal groupies in New York. [New York Times via Gothamist]
* Blago’s judge is prepared for theatrics in the court. [Associated Press]
* Looks like Rihanna and Chris Brown may be violating the judge’s “two-way” stay-away order. [New York Post]
* The latest abortion legislation. [Slate]
* Senators Orrin Hatch and John Cornyn will vote against Sonia Sotomayor for the Supreme Court. [Associated Press]
* Law school students interning in the Brooklyn DA’s office lack salaries and chairs. [New York Times]
* Is the ABA a club that’s not cool anymore? [National Law Journal]
We’ve been following the lawsuit filed by former Covington & Burling staff attorney Yolanda Young against Covington. She alleged that various incidents of racial discrimination derailed her Covington career.
Covington denied those claims.
Today, we have a judgment. Attorneys from Akin Gump — which represents Covington in this matter — sent out the following press release, earlier today:
United States District Court Judge Reggie B. Walton today dismissed Yolanda Young’s lawsuit against Covington & Burling LLP after Ms. Young and her attorney failed to appear for a court hearing.
Young filed her complaint in February 2009 against Covington and five of its present or former lawyers. Covington answered, denying Ms. Young’s allegations. Separately, on March 11, Covington filed a motion to strike certain of plaintiffs’ allegations on the grounds that they were false and scandalous, a motion which plaintiff neither responded to nor disputed. In addition, two of the individual lawyer defendants moved for dismissal for failure to state a claim against them, which the Court granted on May 28.
The Court on May 14 issued an order warning plaintiff that her failure to abide by the Rules and participate in a meet and confer conference might be treated as grounds for dismissal. Today’s hearing was scheduled more than two months ago. When neither Ms. Young nor her attorney, Latif Doman, appeared for the hearing or contacted the Court, Judge Walton dismissed the case without prejudice for want of prosecution.
Talk about anticlimactic.
After the jump, more details from the order.
Only staff attorneys that were “integral” to ongoing matters have been kept on. And there is no word on whether those people will have any job security after their matters wrap up.
It appears that Covington & Burling is also undergoing a major reduction of its staff attorney program.
Tipsters (including some recently laid off staff attorneys) report that firm management has decided to effectively discontinue its staff attorney program. The firm has been letting go of staff attorneys at the rate of a couple per week over the last few weeks. As we understand it, as staff attorneys finish up their active matters, they are being let go.
Our sources tell us that the decision was made by firm management some weeks back. At the time the decision was made, the staff attorney manager was out of the office on vacation. When she came back, she allegedly told Covington’s staff attorneys that they should start circulating their resumes.
In some cases, laid off staff attorneys are being given a one week severance option. One week, if they sign a form promising not to sue the firm over the circumstances of their termination. Some Covington personnel that spoke to Above the Law believed that clause is proof that Covington decided to move out staff attorneys as a response to the lawsuit filed by former-Covington Staff Attorney Yolanda Young.
After the jump, we have statements from Covington & Burling, and Yolanda Young.
Sorry we’re late to the party on this HuffPo post, bearing the provocative title “Law Firm Segregation Reminiscent of Jim Crow.” It’s by Yolanda Young, a former staff attorney at Covington & Burling. Her claim, in a nutshell, is that Covington fills the ranks of its “staff attorney ghetto” with African-Americans, while the ranks of its partnership and partnership-track associate pool are overwhelmingly white.
Young’s post has already been discussed at Legal Blog Watch and the WSJ Law Blog. But considering how we love to fan flames of racial tension follow the issue of diversity in the legal profession so closely here at ATL, of course we’re going to cover it.
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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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please note that Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney are still in Hong Kong and will stay FOR THE REMAINDER OF THIS WEEK. We still have a handful of available slots for meetings with our Asia Chronicles fans. If we have not been in touch lately, reach out and let us know when we could meet! There is no need for an agenda at all. Most of our in-person meetings on these trips are with folks who understand that improving a legal practice through lateral hiring is an information-driven process that takes time to handle correctly.
Regarding trends in lateral US associate hiring in Hong Kong, we of course keep much of what we know off of this blog. Based on placement revenue, though, Kinney is having one of our most successful years ever in Asia. We are helping a number of our law firm clients with M&A, fund formation, cap markets, project finance, FCPA and disputes openings. These are very specific needs in many cases, so a conversation with us before jumping in may be helpful. As always, we like to be sure to get the maximum number of interviews per submission, using a well-informed, highly targeted, and selective approach, taking into account short, medium and long-term career aims.
Making a well informed decision during a job search is easier said than done – the information we provide comes from 10 years of being the market leader in US attorney placements at the top tier firms in Asia. There is no substitute for having known a hiring partner since he/she was an associate or for having helped a partner grow his or her practice from zip to zooming, and this is happily where we stand today – with years of background information on just about every relevant person in all the markets we serve, and most especially in Hong Kong/China/Greater Asia. So get in touch and get a download from us this week if we can fit it in, or soon in any case!