Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis, the world’s highest grossing law firm, announced that it has revised its forced arbitration policy and will no longer require non-attorney staff members to sign forced arbitration clauses.
Update: Kirkland & Ellis has expanded its new policy, which does not require arbitration to settle employment disputes, to include all employees, including non-attorney staff https://t.co/Un0mCkO2gZ— Chris Villani (@ChrisVillani44) December 7, 2018
Kirkland previously announced on November 21 that it would no longer require its associates or summer associates to sign forced arbitration agreements. Following Sidley Austin’s announcement on November 28, Kirkland is the latest law firm to drop the requirement that their employees must sign away their rights as a condition of employment.
On December 6, Kirkland sent the following message to all personnel:
The Firm Committee periodically reviews Firm policies to ensure that they reflect best practices in the legal marketplace. Following a recent review, the Firm Committee determined that the Firm would no longer require arbitration of any employment disputes that may be brought by associates or summer associates.
The Firm Committee has now also determined to extend that policy so that the Firm will no longer require arbitration of any employment disputes that may be brought by any employee who is not an attorney.
“We’re glad that firms like Kirkland & Ellis and Sidley Austin are doing the right thing by dropping forced arbitration for all of their employees, not just the ones with law degrees,” said Vail Kohnert-Yount, a Harvard Law student. “Hopefully, the lawyers at these firms will also consider their moral responsibility not to enforce these types of coercive contracts on behalf of their clients as well, because it’s obvious that forced arbitration impedes access to justice.”
But many firms, such as Cooley; DLA Piper; Fenwick & West; Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher; and others are persisting with their policies of forcing employees to sign mandatory arbitration contracts—at least for now. The Pipeline Parity Project is asking our peers: Don’t interview with any firm that makes any of its employees sign these coercive contracts.