Following a trend among law firms nationwide, New York law firm Selendy & Gay has revised its employment policies and will no longer require its lawyers or any of its employees to sign forced arbitration clauses.
Selendy & Gay, a litigation boutique founded by former Quinn Emanuel partners in 2018, is majority women-owned. About 30% of its work is representing pro bono or contingency clients, including a federal class action against student loan servicer Navient.
Selendy & Gay follows other major law firms, including Sidley Austin, Kirkland & Ellis, and McDermott Will & Emery, that have dropped forced arbitration for all employees after pushback from law students. Other law firms, like Rutan & Tucker and Edelson have dropped forced arbitration for associates.
“It’s great to see a majority women-owned law firm leading by example and respecting the rights of its employees,” said Molly Coleman, a third-year Harvard Law student. “Selendy & Gay is doing the right thing, and it matters.”
Despite the growing consensus that forced arbitration is a grossly unfair dispute resolution mechanism that impedes justice for workers, some firms have doubled down on their coercive contracts. But future lawyers are taking note, and their use of forced arbitration is harming their ability to recruit law students.
“When I interviewed with law firms earlier this year, it was important to me to know which employers used forced arbitration so I could make an informed decision,” said Sarah Tansey, a second-year student at Harvard Law School. “I tailored my bid list to employers whom I knew would give me the choice, rather than requiring me to waive these rights.”
The People’s Parity Project has publicized the firms that are persisting with their policies of forcing employees to sign mandatory arbitration contracts—at least for now. They include DLA Piper, Venable, Cooley, Gibson Dunn, and others.
And while firms like Paul Hastings and Wilson Sonsini technically allow their employees to opt out of forced arbitration, it unacceptably places the burden on employees, who may fear being retaliated against for their choice.
Other firms that either didn’t respond to law schools’ survey or reported that they no longer use forced arbitration, including Steptoe & Johnson, Winston & Strawn, and the soon-to-shutter LeClairRyan, are still compelling forced arbitration clauses in lawsuits brought by former employees.
If these firms are hoping their future employees won’t notice or care, they’re wrong. That’s why the People’s Parity Project is asking our peers: Don’t interview with any firm that makes you or any of its employees sign these coercive contracts.