Law Firms

Judge allows lawyer to sue Proskauer for alleged gender bias under pseudonym; law firm fires back

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A federal judge in Washington, D.C., has allowed a partner suing Proskauer for alleged gender bias to remain anonymous, while the law firm is firing back with a new statement about the case.

U.S. District Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson signed an order on Wednesday allowing the anonymous partner to sue under a “Jane Doe” pseudonym, report Reuters and Law360 (sub. req.).

Then on Thursday, U.S. District Judge U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered preservation of notes of a mediation session where, the Jane Doe plaintiff alleges, a Proskauer partner threatened her with firing because of her complaints, Bloomberg Big Law Business reports.

The plaintiff had claimed in her $50 million suit that she was among the hardest working and most productive equity partners at Proskauer, yet she was paid millions of dollars less than male partners who were similarly or less productive. She is represented by lawyer David Sanford of Sanford Heisler Sharp, who has also sued Chadbourne & Parke and Sedgwick on behalf of female partners.

He is also pursuing bias claims against at least five other law firms that are not yet public, (sub. req.) reports.

In an initial statement, Proskauer called the suit “groundless” and the allegations an attempt “to squeeze a massive payout from our firm.” Now it is stepping up its defense in the media.

Proskauer commented on the plaintiff’s anonymity in an email to Reuters. We “want to note that anonymity allows her counsel to take free shots at us unencumbered by concern that the actual facts will be fully disclosed,” the firm said.

The law firm commented on the mediation order in a statement to Bloomberg. “Mr. Sanford knows that there is a mediation agreement in place signed by both parties that requires complete confidentiality,” the Proskauer spokesperson said. “We intend to abide by that agreement. We appreciate the media play he’s making here but it’s not likely to be upheld in court.”

The law firm also sent a “statement to correct the record” to the ABA Journal. “The facts show that the plaintiff has been richly rewarded at Proskauer for what she contributed and treated fairly at every turn,” the statement says.

The statement says Proskauer has an open and transparent compensation system in which all equity partners know the earnings of others.

“Our system has resulted in the median compensation of our male and female equity partners being identical and the averages being close to identical (94 percent) before considering other factors like specialty or experience,” the statement says. “Those facts demonstrate systemic parity and fairness.”

The firm does not have an ‘eat what you kill’ compensation system, and all lateral partners are informed of the system to ensure buy-in, the statement says. The system “is not for everyone, especially those concerned only with their own pay and short term performance and not a fair recognition of their colleagues’ work and the long term success of the firm,” the statement says.

“Even if Proskauer paid partners solely on the metrics, which it does not, the plaintiff fails to accurately represent her contributions,” the statement says. “She claims it is unfair that she was 18th in client originations among equity partners, yet only 32nd in compensation for 2014-2016. Here’s what she is not telling you—in that same three year period, she ranked 32nd in revenue generation and 134th in realization among all partners, which reflects the lower profitability of the revenue for which she claims credit. In 2016, she ranked 40th in revenue generation and 165th in realization. Despite those rankings, she fails to admit that she was still in the top 10% of her department (5th out of 49 partners) in pay.”

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