Chadbourne Settles Gender Bias Case For $3M

Three former Chadbourne & Parke partners who accused the firm of systematically underpaying its female lawyers have settled their claims for more than $3 million in damages and attorneys’ fees.

In a memorandum filed March 14, attorneys for the three women asked New York Southern District judge to approve the plaintiffs individual settlements over claims that Chadbourne violated the Equal Pay Act.

The defendants include Chadbourne, Norton Rose Fulbright, which absorbed Chadbourne last year, and six individual attorneys.

They contended the women weren’t eligible to sue under the Equal Pay Act because, as partners, they weren’t employees of the firm. The case was settled before the court could weigh in on that dispute.

“We’re pleased that the parties have resolved plaintiffs’ claims under the Equal Pay Act, and we are hopeful that the court will approve the settlements,” Alexandra Harwin, who represented the plaintiffs, told Big Law Business.

A representative for Norton Rose Fulbright also said the firm is hopeful the motion will be granted.

Filed in August 2016 by Kerrie Campbell, the suit alleged that Chadbourne’s male-dominated management systematically underpaid her and other women at the firm. Campbell claimed Chadbourne underpaid her more than $2.7 million between 2014 and 2016, when she brought in more than $5 million in total collections.

The suit was amended to add six named defendants, including head of litigation Abbe Lowell, and five current and former members of the firm’s management committee. They include Andrew Giaccia, Lawrence Rosenberg, Howard Seife, Paul Weber, and Marc Alpert.

Campbell was joined in the suit by Jaroslawa Z. Johnson, former head of Chadbourne’s Kiev office, and Mary T. Yelenick, who retired at the end of 2016.

Under the terms of the Equal Pay Act settlements, Campbell will receive $1 million plus $538,461 in attorneys’ fees, Yelenick will receive $750,000 plus $403,846 in attorneys’ fees, and Johnson will receive $250,000 plus $134,615 in attorneys’ fees.

All three ended their remaining claims in separate settlement agreements, the terms of which aren’t public.

The settlements were reached after several rounds of extensive mediation over the course of months, according to the memorandum.

Along the way, the litigation has been public and contentious.

After the suit was filed, a group of 14 female Chadbourne partners wrote a public letter to Campbell’s attorney, David Sanford, in which they disavowed the lawsuit and called it “patronizing and patriarchal.”

Just months before the merger, the Chadbourne partnership in 2017 voted to expel Campbell .

Campbell argued the expulsion was retaliation for her claims.

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