If you are considering an offer of employment from a law firm that is known to mandate arbitration, you may ask the firm to reconsider the terms of the contract.
This conversation should occur after you have received an offer but before you give a response. You should ask for a copy of the offer letter if you were not sent one already, and confirm that the forced arbitration clause is a term of employment at the firm. Then you may begin to negotiate with the person who sent you the offer letter (usually a member of the firm’s recruiting department). You may have such conversations via phone or email. For those who prefer email, consider an opening message such as:
Hi [insert name],
Thank you to you and all of those in the recruiting department for sending along my offer letter.
I wanted to touch base before making a decision on my outstanding offer to see if you can share any updates about internal discussions at [insert name of law firm] regarding mandatory arbitration as a condition of employment. It has become an important issue for students at [insert name of your school] and at other schools across the country.
According to a survey that has been circulated (which can be found here: https://peoplesparity.org/coercivecontracts/), [insert name of law firm] is one of few law firms that requires its associates to submit to arbitration.
Along with my peers, I care deeply about this issue from a social justice perspective. I would be grateful if you could forward my email to anyone at the firm who has information on the status of including mandatory arbitration provisions in employment contracts. I am also happy to talk to someone at the firm via phone if you think it would be helpful. I would appreciate having a discussion about this before the deadline to accept my offer, if possible.
As the negotiation conversations continue, ensure that any change to the arbitration language applies not just to your personal employment contract, but also to the contracts of the entire incoming associate class, who should receive amended offers of employment. You should also inquire as to whether the new language will be updated in the contracts of all employees firm-wide.
You have the most negotiating power with a law firm when you have received an offer and are deciding to accept or decline it. By applying professional pressure to firms that still employ forced arbitration clauses, you can negotiate important changes to corporate policies that will better empower employees who are victims of sexual harassment, assault, and discrimination.
Lauren Border and Emily Hayes are members of the Stanford Law School Class of 2019.