Clifford Chance has been struck by what is thought to be the first discrimination claim against a law firm on the grounds of sexual orientation.
Former competition partner Michael Bryceland hit the magic circle firm in November with the claim, which has now been settled for an undisclosed amount.
The claim never made it to a full hearing and was withdrawn in April. Bryceland, who was one of Clifford Chance’s rising stars in the competition team, left the firm shortly after. At the time of his departure the firm said he was taking a break from the law.
Bryceland alleged both direct and indirect discrimination.
An employment partner explained: “This means that not only did the firm have an allegedly discriminatory culture, but specific circumstances happened where the individual felt personally discriminated against.”
Although both the settlement and original damages sought remain confidential, experts suggest a claim would seek to mitigate lost earnings and future ones: for a magic circle partner, this could run into seven figures.
Parker & Co Solicitors advised Bryceland, while Clifford Chance represented itself.
Bryceland, who declined to comment, has not yet joined another firm. He was one of a group of competition lawyers who joined Clifford Chance with former head of department Chris Bright from Linklaters in 1999. Bryceland was made up to partner in 2003.
Gay News organisation PinkNews reported spoke with Arpita Dutt, a partner specialising in discrimination law issues at award-winning Russell Jones & Walker solicitors, told PinkNews.co.uk:
“Our recent experience of acting for lawyers, and successfully resolving their disputes, does highlight that sexual orientation claims brought by senior lawyers and partners are on the increase.
“Such claims are usually brought on the basis of a lack of career promotion and advancement, sometimes with a backdrop of gay stereotyping and harassment, and can find a lawyer out of a job or having to move on swiftly and discreetly as a result of raising workplace issues.
“It is rare that such claims hit the headlines due to the common (and sadly, only too accurate) perception that raising issues or bringing a claim is ‘career suicide’.”