Multinational law firm DLA Piper, one of the nation’s largest and most lucrative law firms, has made clear to incoming summer associates that they will be required to sign a forced arbitration agreement if they wish to work for the firm. Like other firms that used forced arbitration, including Kirkland & Ellis and Sidley Austin, DLA Piper did not respond initially to a survey issued by over 50 law schools earlier this year regarding forced arbitration.
It’s unclear why DLA Piper is still forcing arbitration agreements on their lawyers, summer associates, and likely also their non-lawyer staff. Forced arbitration agreements effectively require employees to sign away their right to seek redress in court if they experience illegal treatment at work. The restrictive provisions often cover a broad range of employment-related claims, including sexual harassment and all other forms of discrimination—forcing allegations of workplace misconduct into secretive proceedings that favor employers over victims.
Due to outcry from students, faculty, and the legal community at large, several major firms have dropped forced arbitration clauses from their contracts, most recently Kirkland & Ellis. But other firms, such as Cooley; Drinker Biddle & Reath; Knobbe, Martens, Olson & Bear; Paul Hastings; Stoel Rives; and Varnum, are persisting with their policies of forcing employees to sign mandatory arbitration contracts—at least for now.
With Kirkland & Ellis’s announcement on November 21 that they will no longer force associates at any level into arbitration, DLA Piper is one of the largest law firms in the country that still requires associates to sign away their rights as a condition of employment. Given that DLA Piper claims to be “focused on advancing women lawyers,” one wonders why they are clinging to contract provisions that prevent their employees from enforcing their right to a workplace free of sexual harassment and discrimination, and which other firms have acknowledged they were wrong to use.
Until DLA Piper drops forced arbitration for all its employees, we’re asking our fellow law students headed into recruitment season this year: Don’t interview with DLA Piper (or any firm) until they promise to stop making any of their employees—no associate, paralegal, custodian, or contractor—sign these coercive contracts.
We’re also asking student groups at law schools around the country who may be sponsored by DLA Piper or other firms using forced arbitration: Refuse sponsorships from DLA Piper and any other firm until they drop forced arbitration for all of their employees.