Law Firms

Chadbourne counterclaim says partner who filed $100M pay class action waged 'smear campaign'

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Chadbourne & Parke

Chadbourne & Parke filed a counterclaim Thursday that alleges the lawyer who initially sued the firm in a $100 million pay class action breached her fiduciary duty by revealing confidential financial information and engaging in “a nationwide smear campaign” against the firm.

The counterclaim filed against Kerrie Campbell maintains the partner and her lawyer, David Sanford, sought to make an example of the law firm, the Am Law Daily (sub. req.) and Bloomberg Law Big Law Business. Campbell sought opportunities to speak with the press in “an effort to denigrate Chadbourne in the court of public opinion through false allegations and sensational hyperbole,” the counterclaim says.

Sanford’s true goal, the counterclaim alleges, is to serve notice to other law firms or companies that, in the event of a future discrimination complaint, they would be well-served to quickly settle with Sanford.

Campbell’s suit had claimed female partners at Chadbourne had been underpaid and shut out of law firm leadership. Another former female partner who had led the firm’s Kiev office, Jaroslawa Zelinsky Johnson, also joined the suit as a name plaintiff in October.

Chadbourne said in its response (PDF) to the complaint that Campbell had generated relatively little business and had “blatantly misstated her current compensation arrangement.” In addition, the response says, “in the short period in which she has been a partner, Campbell was seemingly unable to manage her practice, mistreated associates, and acted in ways that raised serious questions about her legal knowledge and judgment as well as her technical competence in litigation matters.”

The response said Campbell was “notorious” among associates “for giving false deadlines, disappearing and being incommunicado for days or weeks at a time, and creating unnecessary last-minute fire drills for routine court filings.”

Chadbourne’s response also criticized wording used in the lawsuit, such as “all-male dictatorship” and “unchecked dominion,” as “publicity-seeking catchphrases” that are designed to misrepresent the situation at the law firm.

As for Johnson, the law firm says she was “the respected leader of the Kiev office,” but the economics there were “challenging.” The firm was forced to close the office because of “difficult political and economic circumstances,” according to the response.

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