Law Firms

Ropes defends firing of partner who claimed her clients were passed to younger male lawyers

In a court hearing in a New York courtroom on Wednesday, Ropes & Gray asserted it acted properly when it fired 63-year-old Patricia Martone in 2010, saying the firm acted because the intellectual property partner was unable to generate significant new business.

Arguing for Ropes, lawyer Bettina Plevan of Proskauer Rose said Martone had been unable to replace the work she lost at the end of two patent cases in 2007, the Am Law Daily reports. As Martone’s client matters declined, her relationships with lawyers suffered, Plevan argued. Reuters also has coverage of the summary judgment hearing.

Martone’s lawyer, Anne Vladeck, has argued that Ropes caused Martone to lose business when it transferred her clients to younger male lawyers. After Martone complained, the firm conducted an investigation. But rather than substantiating Martone’s claims, the firm said, the probe determined her practice was “unsustainable.”

Martone became a partner at Ropes & Gray in 2005 because of a merger with her law firm, Fish & Neave. If she had retired at the age of 65 at the prior firm, she would have been entitled to a retirement package of about $124,000 a year along with a $517,000 bonus spread over five years, Vladeck said. According to the judge presiding at the hearing, U.S. District Judge John Koeltl, Ropes offered Martone early retirement payments of about $67,500 a year if she did not move to a competitor.

Martone is currently working at Morrison & Foerster. “While the two-and-a half-hour-long hearing failed to produce a ruling,” the Am Law Daily says, “it did portray Ropes as a place where individual partners don’t know how much compensation anyone but they themselves receive and where management is quick to cast aside aging partners whose business has floundered.”

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