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Death of Mandatory Arbitration in Law Firm Employment?

By William Vogeler, Esq. on January 30, 2019 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Rumors about the death of the mandatory arbitration agreement at law firms are not really exaggerated.

It is a slow death to be sure, but the restrictive employment agreements are dying. It started about a year ago, when social media piled on a BigLaw firm that required new hires to arbitrate discrimination claims.

Now the American Bar Association is beating the drum against the mandatory arbitration agreements. The ABA wants legal employers to kill them off.

"Overwhelming" Support

The ABA House of Delegates "overwhelmingly" passed a resolution to end "mandatory arbitration of unlawful discrimination, harassment or retaliation."

Resolution 1078 asks legal employers to jettison mandatory arbitration for claims "based upon race, sex, religion, national origin, ethnicity, disability, age, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, marital status, genetic information or status as a victim of domestic or sexual violence."

Bar leaders are concerned about law firms offering jobs to potential workers, who accept and then learn they have to sign mandatory arbitration agreements. That's right in all kinds of ways.

Last spring, social media made an example out of one large firm. BigLaw learned that when social media shouts #MeToo, law firms should listen.

Law Firm Boycott

Law students entered the fray last winter, boycotting firms that required mandatory arbitration. Harvard law students were at the top of the class.

They organized the Pipeline Parity Project, designed to pressure law firms to get rid of the offensive clauses. It's drawn interest from students across campuses nationwide.

Kirkland and Ellis took note, too. The firm dumped mandatory arbitration for its summer associates and regular new hires.

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