Law School Settles Gender Pay Disparity Suit

Recruiting Law Firms Required To Be Openly Transparent About Arbitration Provisions

Top law schools across the country are requiring law firms that recruit on their campuses to openly disclose whether they require summer associates to sign mandatory arbitration provisions and other nondisclosure agreements.

Law.com reports that Yale Law School and 13 other top law schools announced Monday that recruiting law firms will now have to complete a survey that will force them to be openly transparent in their employment contract process.

Survey Follows News Of Big Law’s Mandatory Arbitration Agreement

The announcement comes after news broke that law firm Munger Tolles & Olson required incoming summer associates to sign mandatory arbitration agreements, according to Above The Law. Typically, arbitration agreements bar employees from filing employment claims, such as wrongful termination, breach of contract, and discrimination in court, according to NOLO – a legal resource.

“Instead, you agree that you may raise those claims only in an arbitration proceeding,” according to NOLO. “An arbitration is similar to a trial, in that there is a decision maker (the arbitrator), who decides issues as a judge would. But there is no jury, there are no rules of evidence, and the procedures in arbitration are much more streamlined. Cases go to arbitration more quickly, and often cost less, than they would in court.”

In response to the news, Munger Tolles & Olson quickly backtracked their arbitration provision requirement. A number of other firms, such as Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe and Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, followed suit and announced they were dropping mandatory arbitration provisions, Law.com reports.

Students Hope Survey Will Shine Light On Discrimination

Molly Coleman, a first-year Harvard Law School student, says the news helped to shine light on the #MeToo movement and generate conversation about gender discrimination suits involving Big Law.

“It kind of opened our eyes to the fact that we shouldn’t be allowing this conversation to be swept under the rug,” she tells Law.com “We should be forcing it out there even if law firms don’t want it out there.”

Yale Law’s survey will ask law firms whether or not they require summer associates to sign mandatory arbitration clauses and/or nondisclosure or confidentiality agreements. In addition, Yale will ask firms basic questions regarding how they handle complaints about workplace misconduct and how these policies are made known to new hires.

Stephen Shultze, a student at Georgetown who led his law school’s call for the elimination of mandatory arbitration provisions, says the ultimate goal of the survey is to eliminate mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure agreements for summer associates. For now, he says, students can have some insight into what firm is the best fit for their career.

“When you’re talking about a summer associate who sees this as do-or-die for their career, they’re at the lowest point of their potential ability to negotiate,” he tells Law.com. “For now, we are focused on summer associates and people who are just trying to get a foot in the door in the profession.”

Sources: Law.com, Above The Law, Above The Law, NOLO