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Law Students Send #MeToo Message to BigLaw

By William Vogeler, Esq. on November 27, 2018 10:40 AM

Since when did law students get to tell BigLaw firms what to do?

Since the #MeToo movement, it seems. After Harvard law students said they would boycott Kirkland & Ellis over its mandatory arbitration agreements for summer associates, the BigLaw firm changed its practice.

It took less than a week for the law firm to get the message: #MeToo means you, too.

Boycott Now

For 10 years, Kirkland had required new associates to sign arbitration agreements as a condition of employment. That policy could keep sexual harassment and other complaints out-of-sight.

But the Pipeline Parity Project, a student group, circulated a statement on Twitter to boycott the firm over the policy. The students called out the law firm and published a copy of the arbitration agreement.

They called it "a form of coercive contract that requires employees, as a condition of employment, to waive their right to sue their employer for any reason."

It was not the first time that social media pressure brought a law firm to its knees. But Kirkland is the largest law firm to bow to the #MeToo movement by throwing out mandatory arbitration for employees.

Who, Too?

Munger, Tolles & Olson got the message earlier this year after a Harvard lecturer leaked the firm's arbitration agreement on Twitter. The next business day, the firm "fixed" it. "Munger, Tolles & Olson is committed to the highest standards of conduct," it tweeted. "In this case, we were wrong, and we are fixing it."

Kirkland has not admitted any wrongdoing, but appears to be doing the right thing. The firm is dropping mandatory arbitration for all new lawyers -- not just summer associates.

Paul Caron, writing for the TaxProf Blog, said it was not clear whether the policy change applies to firm staff as well.

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