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Suit Claims Ropes & Gray Gave Female Partner’s Clients to Younger Male Lawyers

Posted Mar 25, 2011 8:27 AM CDT
By Debra Cassens Weiss

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A fired Ropes & Gray partner has filed an age and sex discrimination suit that contends the firm ousted her at age 63 after she complained that her clients were being transferred to younger male lawyers.

Patent lawyer Patricia Martone filed the suit Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, Above the Law reports. Now a partner at Morrison & Foerster, Martone claims Ropes & Gray withheld retirement benefits, maintaining that her new position is competitive.

Martone became a partner at Ropes & Gray in 2005 due to a merger with her law firm, Fish & Neave. “Ropes & Gray first exploited her expertise and relationships with clients, then reassigned her responsibilities and clients to younger male partners,” the suit (PDF posted by Above the Law) says. “In Martone’s experience, no male partner at Ropes & Gray with a similar book of business and reputation was treated the way the firm treated her.”

According to the suit, Martone did not have access to partnership records unless authorized by the policy committee, which operates much like the board of directors of a corporation. Under the firm’s “blackbox system,” she was not told what other partners were paid, nor was she allowed to disclose her compensation to others.

Above the Law says Martone’s suit is “not that juicy a read.” There are no salacious details, lurid allegations and multimillion-dollar request for damages. The blog views the just-the-facts approach as a shrewd attempt to obtain a settlement, with an unstated threat of further, more sensational details to come if no agreement is reached.

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