“Big Law” Compensation Schemes To Be Scrutinized In New Sex Discrimination Suit Against LeClairRyan

The mysterious compensation ways of Big Law – from which, thankfully, I escaped – just got LeClairRyan sued under Title VII and The Equal Pay Act.

Top Secret, Confidential, Secret

A female former partner claims in a new federal lawsuit that “origination credit” decisions (always a source of in-fighting and a_ _ kissing at Big Law) are “made in favor of male shareholders and against female shareholders.  Justification for such action has included stereotyped concerns over a male attorney’s need to support a family.”

Michael Schwartz reports in yesterday’s Richmond BizSense that plaintiff claims that decisions on origination, compensation and promotion are “cloaked in secrecy” and involve “back-office deals favoring the firm’s male shareholders.”  He attaches a copy of the Complaint in his article.

Girl, Quieter, Silence, Emotions

This could get interesting.

I can attest that such Big Law decisions are anything but transparent, despite every Big Law firm’s claims made to its lawyers to the contrary. They are indeed “cloaked in secrecy” and involve “back-office deals.”  Whether LeClairRyan’s alleged “back-office” decisions are, in fact, discriminatory and violative of Title VII and The Equal Pay Act will be determined in this lawsuit.

LeClairRyan says that it “views the lawsuit as groundless.”

I, for one, am glad to have left behind all of the back-biting and bureaucratic in-fighting, and to be free to establish affordable rates for clients.   Let’s face it – it is the client who gets it in the neck as a result of these secretive Big Law compensation decisions, since already-inflated hourly rates are necessarily jacked up even higher to pay for the marble lobbies, the mahogany office furniture, and the salaries of inexperienced associates.

One thing is certain: if this litigation is not settled or dismissed, we may get a long-overdue look at the secret ways of Big Law.

More on this later.


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Richard Cohen

Richard B. Cohen is a partner in the New York City office of FisherBroyles, LLP, a national law firm. Richard Cohen has litigated and arbitrated complex corporate, commercial and employment disputes for more than 35 years, and is a trusted advisor to business owners and in-house counsel both in the United States and internationally. His clients have included Fortune 100 companies, domestic and foreign commercial and investment banks, Pacific-rim corporations and real estate development companies, as well as start-up businesses throughout the United States. Email Richard at [email protected]