Women’s law associations from law schools across the country are leading the fight against forced arbitration. These student organizations will no longer accept any funds from any law firm that requires employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements or refuses to disclose in future surveys whether or not they do so, nor will they promote these firms to their membership.
Mandatory arbitration does not just affect women, and any and all law student organizations are welcome to sign the below statement letter and make this commitment too. Please find their statement below, and contact the Yale Law Women to be added to this list.
Two weeks ago, our friends at the Pipeline Parity Project, an advocacy organization composed of Harvard Law students, launched a #DumpKirkland campaign. Kirkland & Ellis LLP had dug in its heels with regard to making mandatory arbitration a condition of employment at the firm. The Pipeline Parity Project encouraged students to pass over any Kirkland recruiting until the firm promised to stop making employees sign these coercive contracts. Just a week later, on November 21, Kirkland announced to its employees that it will no longer require arbitration of any employment disputes brought by associates or summer associates. We, the 2018-2019 boards of women’s law associations at law schools across the country, applaud the enormous efforts of the Harvard Law students to call out recalcitrant employers, and we celebrate their success.
Mandatory arbitration agreements prevent employees from seeking justice in court and limit the enforcement of substantive employment rights. Mandatory arbitration forces employees to submit any dispute with their employer to binding, private, and often confidential arbitration—a process which advantages sophisticated, repeat players at the expense of individual claimants.
Kirkland’s policy change is a major success. After all, Kirkland is currently the world’s largest law firm by gross revenue. However, Kirkland was not the only firm that forces employees to agree to mandatory arbitration as a condition of employment. Over spring and summer 2018, law student advocates banded together to survey major legal employers about their use of mandatory arbitration. 187 employers completed the survey and the results can be accessed here. While it is a huge victory that Kirkland associates and summer associates are no longer forced to arbitrate employment disputes, the firm’s silence regarding the mandatory arbitration to which its other employees, like non-legal staff, are subject should be noted.
We, the 2018-2019 boards of women’s law associations at law schools across the country, will no longer accept any funds from any law firm that requires employees to sign mandatory arbitration agreements (per the results of the survey from this past summer) or refuses to disclose in future surveys whether or not they do so. We will not promote these firms to our members in any way. We know that many law students have already committed to spending next summer or year with these firms, and we understand that those choices are complex and personal. We hope that using our collective voices to oppose pernicious employment practices will ensure that future students do not have to weigh the harm of signing a mandatory arbitration agreement when deciding where to work.
In addition, Yale Law Women (YLW) is committing to including questions about employment practices, such as the use of mandatory arbitration, in the annual flagship reports of the YLW Top Ten Firms for Gender Equity and Family Friendliness.
Finally, we recognize that mandatory arbitration is a policy that negatively impacts all workers, legal and non-legal, and not merely associates and summer associates. We are committed to including questions about employment practices for all employees in future surveys.
While future boards of our organizations will have the opportunity to determine their own policy positions—just as we have this year—we are eager to use our tenure to publicly disavow employers whose policies structurally disadvantage the labor force’s most vulnerable employees, including women, people of color, gender non-conforming individuals, individuals with disabilities, and the LGBTQ+ community.
Yale Law Women, 2018-2019 Board
Anna Funtelar, Erin Drake, Megan Mumford, Sam Peltz, Audrey Pence, Madeline Silva, Rita Gilles, and Sarah Michael Levine
Women of Stanford Law, 2018-2019 Board
Nicole Collins, Olivia Flechsig, Marjory Marquardt, Lori Ding, Serena Saffarini, Elizabeth Hannah, Melissa Giangrande, Willa Collins, Rachel Waterman, and Marika O’Connor Grant
Penn Law Women’s Association, 2018-2019 Board
Berkeley Law Womxn of Color Collective, 2018-2019 Board
Olivia Gee and Sana Mayat
Harvard Women’s Law Association, 2018-2019 Executive Board
Isabel Finley, Reshma Lutfeali, and Zainab Hashmi
* A note from 2018-2019 Executive Board of the Harvard Women’s Law Association: The board of the Harvard Women’s Law Association has recently acted to encourage our sponsoring firms to drop mandatory arbitration and nondisclosure provisions from employee contracts. We are currently reviewing our sponsorship offerings and requirements, and expect updated guidelines before the start of the 2019-20 fundraising cycle. However, given the size of our organization and board, as well as our interest in further considering how to address sponsors using mandatory arbitration in contracts for non-attorney staff, partners, and counsel, we are not announcing full policy changes at this time. The 2018-19 Executive Board wholeheartedly supports the values and policies outlined in this letter.
Stanford Women of Color Collective, 2018-2019 Board
Elizabeth Reetz, Serena Saffarini, Esther Yu, Diana Sanchez, Gabby McKenzie, Hannah Matsunaga, Liz Sanchez, and Priscilla Hernández
Yale Law Women of Color Collective, 2018-2019 Board
Juliana Moraes Liu and Serena Candelaria
UChicago Law Women’s Caucus, 2018-2019 Board
Cornell Women’s Law Coalition, 2018-2019 Executive Board
Emily Szopinski, Rebecca Budrow, Rachel Kessler, Lauren Kloss, Jennifer Chu, Tayler Woelcke, Christina Lee, Nathalie Greenfield, and Evelyn Hudson
NYU Law Women, 2018-2019 Board
Women of Berkeley Law, 2018-2019 Board
Caitlin Nelson and Savannah Reid
NYU Law Women of Color Collective, 2018-2019 Board
Michigan Women Law Students Association, 2018-2019 Board
If your law student organization is willing to make this commitment too, please contact the Yale Law Women to be added to this list.