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Harvard Law Students Speak To End Arbitration Agreements

A student-led boycott at Harvard Law has paid off.

After nearly a month of students boycotting Kirkland & Ellis over its required arbitration, the law firm announced last week that it will no longer require its associate to sign mandatory arbitration agreements, The Harvard Crimson reports.

“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,” the company-wide memo reads.

A Fight For Freedom And Equality

The Pipeline Parity Project — a Harvard Law student group — called for a boycott of Kirkland & Ellis in early November. The group’s statement included a copy of an arbitration agreement that a Kirkland & Ellis associate was required to sign this year.

“Don’t interview with Kirkland & Ellis until they promise to stop making any of their employees—no associate, paralegal, custodian, or contractor—sign these coercive contracts,” the statement reads.

A Controversial Process

Arbitration, according to The Balance, is the “process of bringing a business dispute before a disinterested third party for resolution.” The process is often used in place of litigation in the “hope of settling a dispute without the cost and time of going to court.”

But critics of the arbitration process argue that its often used by law firms to hide encounters and complaints of harassment, discrimination, or workplace abuse.

In April, a group of Harvard Law students penned an open letter calling on the law school to ensure that law firms who recruit on campus “protect the rights of their employees.”

According to The Harvard Crimson, the students called on the Office of Career Services to require recruiting employers to remove the mandatory arbitration and non-disclosure agreements from associate contracts.

As of April, the letter had garnered 281 signatures.

In response, Harvard announced that it would require recruiting law firms to openly disclose whether or not they require summer associates to sign mandatory arbitration agreements.

Additionally, Harvard and a dozen other law schools also sent a survey to 374 law firms on whether they require such agreements. Nearly half declined to answer, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Sources: The Harvard Crimson, The Harvard Crimson