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Irell Says Hollywood Dreams, Rather than Bias, Spurred Former Partner to Leave

Posted Aug 15, 2011 8:53 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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Irell & Manella is contradicting the claims of a former partner who claims in a lawsuit that the law firm cut her pay because of lost hours during maternity leave.

Irell asserts that Juliette Youngblood left the firm in 2009 to pursue dreams of becoming a Hollywood producer, the Am Law Daily reports. According to the law firm, Youngblood did not express any concerns about her pay until she demanded an extra $180,000 in 2010, saying she was due more money under a partnership agreement entitling her to preferential treatment. The firm asserts Youngblood’s demand was based on “a novel and incorrect interpretation” of the partnership agreement, and her pay claim did not arise from gender bias “or anything remotely similar.”

Youngblood had worked at Irell & Manella for 17 years, becoming a partner and overseeing the law firm’s entertainment practice. She contended in a suit filed last month that she left because of discrimination and retaliation for complaints about a partner’s inappropriate conduct at a happy hour event.

According to Irell, Youngblood had threatened to file a suit filled with “lurid, headline-grabbing allegations” unless the law firm agreed to pay her the extra money she wanted. Youngblood’s allegations of harassment and discrimination are “utterly false, complete fabrications manufactured out of whole cloth,” the answer (PDF) says.

The firm seeks to send the matter to arbitration.

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