Law Firms

Fried Frank, Covington Respond to Lawyer Bias Claims

Two law firms facing bias lawsuits have come out swinging against the lawyers making the allegations.

Covington & Burling has been accused of race discrimination by a former staff lawyer who says the firm created a staff attorney ghetto filled with blacks and other minorities. Fried Frank Harris Shriver & Jacobson faces claims that it refused to promote a former associate because she is a lesbian.

Covington has filed a motion for summary judgment that says the plaintiff, former staff attorney Yolanda Young, has no standing to sue over the firm’s hiring criteria because she never applied to be an associate and wasn’t affected by standards alleged to have a disparate impact on minorities, the National Law Journal reports.

“Plaintiff’s theory appears to be that Covington unlawfully takes account of law school grades, journal membership and clerkships” when deciding whether to assign attorneys to jobs as staff attorneys or associates, according to the motion (PDF posted by Legal Times).

The motion says Young had law school grades averaging a C or a C plus, with grades of D in multiple courses. Her experience included no clerkships, no law journal memberships and no legal experience outside of contract work doing document review. The firm asserts she wanted the staff attorney job to support herself while pursuing a writing career.

In its response to a suit by a former associate, Fried Frank “responded forcefully,” denying all of her claims and arguing the action was filed too late, the American Lawyer reports. The plaintiff, Julie Kamps, had claimed partners advised her to wear more feminine clothing, one partner had sexually harassed her, and the law firm retaliated when she complained.

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