Sidley Austin Settles Discrimination Lawsuit With Almost A Million-Per-(Former)-Partner Payout

LAWFUEL – The Law Firm Newswire – Sidley Austin, Chicago’s second-largest law firm, agreed to pay $27.5 million to 32 lawyers allegedly fired or demoted to make way for younger lawyers, the Chigago Sun-Times reports.

The firm issued a statement saying it admits no wrongdoing with this consent decree, which it agreed to merely to put “the cost, time and distraction of this litigation behind us.”

Experts found that a bit hard to swallow.

“That’s roughly a million dollars a person — that’s a lot of money,” said DePaul University Law Professor Steve Greenberger. “People don’t settle disputes for 27 and a half million dollars unless they’re somewhat concerned about their potential exposure.”

John Hendrickson, regional attorney for the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which brought the suit two years ago on behalf of the 32 employees, said the decree should serve as a reminder for employers.

“The EEOC continues to be very much engaged in fighting employment discrimination, including, especially, age discrimination, which is, interestingly, at this … time, when the economy is under stress, often the response of employers is to say ‘Let’s get rid of the old guys,'” Hendrickson said.

David Alan Richards, one of the 32, and now at the New York firm of McCarter & English, said, “Members of the class have confirmation that their discharge was not for the quality of their work.”

Most of the discharged attorneys have found work at other firms. Sidley noted in its release that 10 of the attorneys still work at the firm in the status of counsel or senior counsel.

The firm opted to revoke their partner status at a time when many firms were trying to improve their earnings-per-partner statistics.

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