Chadbourne Gets Nod For $3.1M Deal Ending Sex Bias Suit

Posted March 23rd, 2018.

As It Appeared On
Law360

By Braden Campbell

Law360 (March 23, 2018, 11:31 AM EDT) — A Manhattan federal judge has signed off on a $3.1 million deal to end a proposed class action brought by three female lawyers alleging that Chadbourne & Parke LLP, which merged with Norton Rose Fulbright LLP last year, systematically underpaid women.

In an order signed Tuesday and made available Thursday, U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken said the deal, which was proposed last week, is a “fair and reasonable” settlement to the Equal Pay Act claims.

Kerrie L. Campbell, the former partner who brought the suit in August 2016, will receive $1 million, according to settlement papers filed March 14. Two other attorneys who joined later, Mary Yelenick and Jaroslawa Johnson, will be paid $750,000 and $250,000, respectively, according to the filings.

Their Sanford Heisler Sharp LLP legal team will receive roughly $1.1 million as part of the settlement, according to court filings.

Campbell, who was later ousted from Chadbourne, filed suit in 2016 alleging the firm has a “boys’ club” culture that led it to pay women less than men. The women also contended that Norton Rose Fulbright, which recently absorbed Chadbourne, should be held liable as a successor. Norton Rose is a party to the proposed settlements, the filings say.

Chadbourne and its accusers said they’re pleased with the deal in a joint statement.

“Through the litigation process, Ms. Campbell contributed to important ongoing dialogue within the profession about gender issues,” the statement reads. “Chadbourne hopes and expects that Ms. Campbell will be successful in her future professional endeavors.”

Sanford Heisler attorney Alexandra Harwin added the settlement “represents an excellent result for the plaintiffs after hard-fought litigation.”

A Norton Rose representative did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The sides first had a breakthrough in settlement talks on Nov. 13, four days after the plaintiffs won a key discovery ruling, the settlement papers say. In that ruling, U.S. Magistrate Judge Barbara C. Moses held that six male defendants who used to run Chadbourne — Marc Alpert, Andrew Giaccia, Abbe Lowell, Howard Seife, Lawrence Rosenberg and Paul Weber — would have to submit their personal emails for discovery.

The defendants had argued those accounts should be off-limits.

The deal ends one of a handful of suits brought by female attorneys at management-side law firms alleging systematic bias against women. Proskauer Rose LLP, Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC and Steptoe & Johnson LLP are among the firms that have faced suits. Sanford Heisler Sharp also represents the plaintiffs in the Proskauer and Ogletree suits.

The women are represented by David W. Sanford and Alexandra Harwin of Sanford Heisler LLP.

Chadbourne is represented by Evandro C. Gigante, Kathleen M. McKenna and Rachel S. Fischer of Proskauer Rose LLP.

Norton Rose is represented by Steven M. Bierman of Sidley Austin LLP.

The case is Campbell et al. v. Chadbourne & Parke et al., case number 1:16-cv-06832, in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

–Additional reporting by Pete Brush. Editing by Emily Kokoll.

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