Law Firms

Suit alleges Blank Rome partner was forced out due to LGBT animus, desire to steal his clients

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A former equity partner at Blank Rome has filed a lawsuit alleging he was forced out of the firm because of a desire to steal his intellectual-property clients and disdain for his support for gay rights.

Former partner Alfred Zaher filed the suit in Philadelphia common pleas court last week, report the Legal Intelligencer (sub. req.) and the Philadelphia Business Journal.

The suit says Zaher was the most successful lawyer in his practice area for developing clients and generating fees, with a book of business exceeding $2.5 million a year. The firm forced him out in July 2014 in a “nefarious plan” to steal his practice, according to the complaint.

The suit alleges that chairman and managing partner Alan Hoffman devised the plan to steal Zaher’s client base. Two other lawyers carried out the plan by visiting Zaher’s clients and “maliciously” advising them that Zaher was leaving the firm due to “ethical issues,” the suit claims. Yet no action had been taken to expel Zaher under the partnership agreement at that time, and there were no ethical issues, the suit says.

The suit also alleges that Hoffman had an “apparent disdain for Zaher’s open advocacy for gay rights in the legal community.”

“Hoffman often made unfounded and disrespectful comments in open meetings of firm attorneys disparaging Zaher’s mannerisms and dress,” the suit alleges, “and Hoffman displayed strong discontent and disapproval when Zaher organized and held a meeting of approximately 70 LGBT Philadelphia attorneys at the firm’s Philadelphia offices.”

Blank Rome denied the allegations, but told the publications in a statement that neither the firm nor the partners could comment on specifics of the complaint as a result of its partnership agreement.

“The firm will defend itself vigorously against Mr. Zaher’s baseless charges,” the statement said. “For more than 70 years, Blank Rome has been committed to fostering an inclusive and diverse work environment. We are proud of the distinction we received under Alan Hoffman’s leadership and support for achieving a perfect score of 100 percent on the 2016 Corporate Equality Index in recognition of our policies and practices related to LGBT workplace equality.”

Zaher joined Novak Druce Connolly Bove + Quigg after leaving Blank Rome, and jumped to Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney in July 2015.

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