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Judge OKs Damages Claim by Ex-Edwards Wildman Partner Allegedly Ousted Without Required Partner Vote

Posted Sep 7, 2012 4:12 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A former corporate partner of Edwards Wildman Palmer isn't entitled to his promised pay of $625,000 for his work 2008, because he didn't bring in anywhere close to the amount of business he was supposed to generate to be paid at this level, a New York judge ruled last week.

However, Stephen Connoni, is entitled to seek damages at trial concerning his January 2009 dismissal from the 625-attorney law firm, because it allegedly occurred without the partnership vote required by his contract with Edwards Wildman, held Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Melvin Schweitzer. It appears that such damages could be based on a share of the profits to which he was entitled as an equity partner, reports Reuters.

The firm contends Connoni, who reportedly had been paid $276,000 for his work by the end of 2008, should get nothing further, according to the news agency: "The firm looks forward to demonstrating at trial that Mr. Connoni's breach means he is not entitled to any additional compensation," said a spokeswoman in a written statement.

In another victory for Connoni, the judge said the firm can't pursue claims that Connoni misrepresented his book of business.

The judge's opinion offers a compelling account of a hard-fought dismissal by Connoni, who had joined Edwards Wildman from K&L Gates in 2007, as Reuters recounts.

Schweitzer explains that Connoni was supposed to bring in around $1.9 million in new business in 2008 to earn his $625,000 salary, but actually billed only $822,713. Then Edwards Wildman had to write off $690,000 of that amount, because of a collections issue, according to the judge.

Asked by the then-managing partner to withdraw in September 2008, Connoni "refused to leave," as the managing partner told his colleagues in a November 2008 email cited by the judge.

A flurry of emails eventually led to Connoni's exit around the end of January 2009. He said the recession and financial problems at the firm, which was then known as Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, were to blame for his ouster.

Additional coverage:

ABA Journal (2009): "Suing Your Ex-Partners"

ABAJournal.com (2009): "Suit by Fired Lateral Partner Says Edwards Angell Should Have Lowered Expectations"

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