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BigLaw to Oust Partner Who Sued Firm for Gender Discrimination

By William Vogeler, Esq. on April 10, 2017 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Usually, workers sue their employers after they have been fired.

And sometimes, employers sue their workers after terminating them.

But these are lawyers suing lawyers, and there is nothing usual about their lawsuit. Kerrie Campbell, a partner at the 400-lawyer firm of Chadbourne & Parke, sued the firm for $100 million for underpaying women. The partnership sued back for breaching confidentiality and smearing the firm.

Now, after eight months of litigation, Chadbourne is thinking about letting the partner go. Ya think?

'Inevitable Result'

The firm announced that a meeting of the partners has been "scheduled to consider and vote" on whether to expel Campbell from the partnership. Prior to her lawsuit, the firm said, it had asked her to leave for "questionable legal judgment, her serious and disruptive failures in practice management, and her displaying poor personal judgment."

And did the $100 million lawsuit have anything to do with it? Of course, says Campbell's lawyer David Sanford. He said that the termination vote is retaliation, and it will drag down Chadbourne's planned merger with another law firm.

"Unfortunately for Norton Rose Fulbright, this discriminatory and overtly retaliatory act is a liability that will not disappear with the firm's upcoming merger," Sanford said, referring to the firm Chadbourne is pursuing a merger with. "We will pursue discovery to determine Norton Rose Fulbright's role in directing or approving Ms. Campbell's expulsion."

But How Do You Really Feel?

Campbell, who filed her case in August 2016, said the firm had "an all-male dictatorship" that perpetuated "a culture of discrimination against female attorneys." She sued after the firm refused to compensate her fairly and reduced her pay to a junior attorney's level, she said.

In the federal complaint, she claimed damages for herself and 26 other female attorneys "who have been disparately underpaid, systematically shut out of firm leadership, demoted, de-equitized and terminated." She said she brought in more than $5 million in business during her two years at the firm, outperforming male partners who were paid far more for less.

Chadbourne, in response, said Campbell has pursued a smear campaign against the firm, litigating in the press in "an effort to denigrate Chadbourne in the court of public opinion through false allegations and sensational hyperbole."

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