Chadbourne & Parke Faces $100M Gender-Bias Suit

     MANHATTAN (CN) — Mirroring recent backlash against Fox News, the legal giant Chadbourne & Parke faces a federal class action that says the firm is run by an “all-male dictatorship.”
     “Even in a field where inequities between male and female attorneys persist, Chadbourne stands out for its culture of discrimination against female attorneys,” the complaint filed Wednesday states.
     Kerrie Campbell, a Maryland-based attorney who filed the lawsuit, says Chadbourne hired her as a lateral partner in 2014 and she quickly began generating millions for the international law firm.
     “Campbell’s productivity and revenue generation have been consistent with the firm’s top performing male partners but her pay consistently places her at the bottom ranks of male partners who have originated far less, and in some instances, zero revenue as a billing partner,” the complaint states. “Campbell has called out and opposed gender-based pay and power inequities at Chadbourne and asked the firm’s all-male five-member management committee, managing partner, and head of the litigation department to address and rectify these issues.”
     On the heels of her complaints, Chadbourne says Campbell gave her the ax on Feb. 19, 2016.
     The firm called Campbell’s $100 million class action meritless.
     “Chadbourne is proud of its commitment to firm diversity at all levels, and will fight Ms. Campbell’s attempt to distort the firm’s record for her personal gain,” the firm said in a statement.
     Noting that it “categorically denies” every charge in the complaint, the firm called Campbell’s complaint “riddled with falsehoods.
     “Once the facts are fully presented, the firm is confident that her allegations will be shown to be completely baseless,” the statement concludes.
     Campbell meanwhile says the facts are clear.
     She notes that “Chadbourne is conspicuously absent from both the National Law Journal’s list of the top 100 law firms on its most recent ‘Women in Law Scorecard’ and Law360’s most recent list of 100 large law firms recognized for being ‘Best Law Firms for Female Attorneys.'”
     “Female partners at Chadbourne regularly receive less compensation than similarly-situated male partners,” the complaint states. “This pay disparity is the direct result of Chadbourne’s male-dominated firm leadership. Women in the partnership at Chadbourne earn less than men and are virtually shut out of influential decision-making positions at the firm.”
     Indeed “the 114-year-old firm only recently elected its first female partner to the management committee in July 2016 — after Campbell filed a class charge of discrimination with the EEOC.”
     Having been fired in February, Campbell notes that she never got to benefit from this woman’s leadership.
     “Throughout the relevant time period, a committee of five men in Chadbourne’s New York office made all compensation decisions for each and every Chadbourne partner worldwide,” the complaint states. “Together, these five men made up Chadbourne’s management committee, a centralized brotherhood with complete control over partner compensation.”
     Campbell hopes to represent a class of “other female partners who have been disparately underpaid, systematically shut out of firm leadership, demoted, de-equitized and terminated.”
     “Chadbourne’s all-male dictatorship makes its decisions regarding firm partners in a black box, generally without input or scrutiny from the partnership at large,” the complaint states.
     Complaining about the secrecy by which the committee operates, Campbell says a “wall of silence reinforces the firm’s glass ceiling by shielding the management committee from meaningful oversight and giving it unchecked dominion over the compensation and employment of firm partners.”
     As described in the class action, Chadbourne uses an arbitrary point-based system to keep its female partners underpaid.
     “Partnership points are supposed to be tied to the anticipated revenues that a partner will generate for the firm, or ‘collections,'” the complaint states. “However, the management committee routinely overvalues the anticipated contributions of male partners, even where female partners have a demonstrated record of outperforming them. Point allocation is left entirely to the subjective will of the management committee.”
     Campbell learned that women get less points than men at Chadbourne right away.
     While similarly or less productive male partners earned points in the 1,000-1,400 range, according to the complaint, Campbell says she was awarded just 500 points at her hiring.
     “From her first day at the firm, the deck was stacked against Campbell,” the complaint states. “She was destined to make two to three times less than her male counterparts did.”
     Campbell notes that 20 nonpartner attorneys left the firm in a two-year period from January 2014 through December 2015, and 17 of these attorneys were women.
     Chadbourne meanwhile says its “commitment to the advancement of women dates back over fifty years, when the firm elected its first female partner in 1964 — at a time when such promotions were extremely rare.”
     “Female equity partners have served and currently serve on the firm’s management committee, as practice group leaders, and as managing partners of various firm offices,” Chadbourne added.
     In May 2016, Chadbourne Parke agreed to a pay $35 million class action settlement to victims of R. Allen Stanford’s $7 billion Ponzi scheme.
     Campbell is represented by Jeremy Heisler at Sanford Heisler.

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