Posted April 5th, 2017.
Chadbourne & Parke partners will soon be voting on a motion to expel the partner who in August filed a gender discrimination suit against the firm, a spokesperson said on Wednesday.
The vote will be scheduled within the coming week, according to the Chadbourne spokesperson. In order to pass, the motion will need a two-thirds vote, measured by the profit percentage interests of those voting yes.
The partner in question, Kerrie Campbell, alleges she was paid less than her male counterparts in the partnership. Specifically, she claims she was underpaid $2.7 million over the course of two years. Since filing the lawsuit, she has been joined by Jaroslawa Johnson, a former partner who managed Chadbourne’s now-defunct Kiev office, and Mary Yelenick, a retired partner who now serves as of counsel to the firm. The plaintiffs have a pending motion to certify the suit as a collective action.
“As Chadbourne prepares for a new future, the choices Ms. Campbell has made have left the Firm no alternative but to seek to bring this relationship to an end in this manner,” a firm spokesman said in a statement. “No matter how she will try to mischaracterize it, this decision is the inevitable result of the choices Ms. Campbell has made.”
Campbell joined Chadbourne as an equity partner in 2014 after chairing the consumer products and safety group at Manatt, Phelps & Phillips. But in early 2016, Chadbourne’s then all-male management committee held a meeting where it decided to ask her to leave the firm as soon as possible. “This was done quietly and carefully,” according to the firm spokesperson.
According to the firm, the meeting was held “when it became impossible to ignore” Campbell’s “failure to deliver in the way she represented when she joined Chadbourne, her exhibiting questionable legal judgment, her serious and disruptive failures in practice management, and her displaying poor personal judgment, among other things.”
Campbell previously told Big Law Business that the meeting came as a total surprise, and that she stayed at the firm because she is the sole breadwinner for her family.
Campbell herself did comment on the planned vote, but her attorney, David Sanford of Sanford Heisler, called the firm’s decision to publicly announce the partnership’s vote a “new low.”
“By calling the planned expulsion vote ‘the inevitable result of the choices Ms. Campbell has made’ in bringing suit against the Firm, Chadbourne openly admits that the vote to terminate Ms. Campbell is retaliatory,” Sanford said in an emailed statement.
“This discriminatory and overtly retaliatory act is a liability that will not disappear with the firm’s upcoming merger” with Norton Rose Fulbright, Sanford added. The two firms announced in February that they will combine in the second quarter. “We will pursue discovery to determine Norton Rose Fulbright’s role in directing or approving Ms. Campbell’s expulsion,” Sanford said.
In a statement, the Chadbourne spokesperson said Campbell’s claims were “baseless” and that she brought them “in cynical pursuit of a big and undeserved payday.”
“The Firm has been exceedingly patient and sought to avoid having a formal expulsion vote if other outcomes were possible,” the spokesperson said.