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Kelley Drye Defends De-Equitization of Older Lawyers in Lawsuit Response

Posted Apr 6, 2010 8:04 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Kelley Drye & Warren contends in response to a lawsuit filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that a lawyer forced out of equity partnership at the age of 70 wasn’t an employee protected by federal law.

Kelley Drye was responding to an EEOC suit challenging the law firm’s policy of de-equitizing partners at age 70, the New York Law Journal reports. The suit, filed on behalf of 79-year-old Eugene D'Ablemont, also claimed Kelley Drye retaliated against the lawyer by dropping his bonus from $75,000 to $25,000 after he complained to the EEOC in 2008.

The suit alleges that Kelley Drye pays de-equitized partners considerably less than younger lawyers with similar billings and productivity.

The law firm’s answer (PDF posted by the New York Law Journal) says D’Ablemont and other senior lawyers had partner responsibilities that demonstrate they were employers rather than employees. They represent themselves as partners, vote in firm elections, and have access to the firm’s financial information.

The answer also takes D’Ablemont to task, criticizing his annual billings and conduct.

D’Ablemont’s compensation was fair, the law firm says, given his actual billings and all the free legal services he received from the law firm.

The response says D'Ablemont transferred billing credit to other partners after he reached the age of 70. In some instances, the firm says, D'Ablemont continues to claim credit for clients even though "he does little, if anything, beyond the ministerial act of preparing and sending them a bill."

The law firm also alleged that D’Ablemont had violated the partnership agreement by receiving payments from a third party.

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