Kirkland drops mandatory arbitration of associate workplace disputes after call for boycott
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Kirkland & Ellis will no longer require associates and summer associates to agree to mandatory arbitration of workplace disputes.
The law firm announced the change in its employment agreement to its lawyers last week, report Law.com and Bloomberg Law. It’s unclear whether nonlawyer staff members at Kirkland are still bound by the mandatory arbitration policy.
“The firm committee periodically reviews firm policies to ensure that they reflect best practices in the legal marketplace,” Kirkland said in the announcement. “Following a recent review, the firm committee has determined that the firm will no longer require arbitration of any employment disputes that may be brought by associates or summer associates.”
A group of Harvard law students called the Pipeline Parity Project had called for a student boycott of the law firm over the arbitration mandate. The project released a statement saying Kirkland had “reversed a 10-year-old policy of requiring attorneys to waive their rights to sue over harassment, discrimination and other workplaces abuses.”
Law school career services deans sent a survey this year to 374 BigLaw firms that asked about their use of mandatory arbitration of employment agreements. Kirkland was among 188 law firms that did not respond.
The Pipeline Parity Project focused on Kirkland because it has the highest revenue of any law firm in the nation. At least three other large law firms dropped their mandatory arbitration agreements after an outcry on Twitter. Munger, Tolles & Olson and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe dropped mandatory arbitration of all their employee disputes, while Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom dropped arbitration agreements for nonpartners.
More law firms could be targeted, according to Pipeline Parity Project member Vail Kohnert-Yount. “While we hope Kirkland & Ellis has ended their use of forced arbitration once and for all, the real question is: Who are we dumping next?” Kohnert-Yount told Law.com.