The Firms

June 11, 2009 7:07 PM

Complaint Reveals Details of $30 Million Suit Against Sonnenschein

Posted by Zach Lowe

Since Cook County Circuit Court appears to be stuck in the pre-Internet ages, we had to dispatch a Chicago colleague to the chancery division to retrieve the lawsuit Huron Consulting filed against Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, accusing the firm of illegally recruiting eight of the consulting company's employees. (Did we mention it was raining?)

Nonetheless, it was worth the hassle. According to the suit, filed last Friday, Sonnenschein is planning to start a separate health care consulting business by allegedly raiding the offices of Huron Consulting Group.

Huron, which seeks $30 million in damages, accuses Sonnenschein of tortious interference for encouraging Huron employees to contact their current and former coworkers and persuade them to come work for Sonnenschein.

It accuses five ex-Huron executives, now all at Sonnenschein, of recruiting coworkers in violation of a nonsolicitation agreement, downloading confidential Huron documents and client lists, and soliciting Huron clients after leaving the company.

It also accuses them of keeping Huron laptops filled with client lists and confidential information about clients like the city of Chicago well after they were allowed to have them. (You can download the full complaint below.)

None of the named defendants responded to requests for comment. The firm released a statement saying the suit is without merit.

Among the juicier details, the complaint says the alleged ringleader of the Huron group, Lisa Murtha, now a partner in Sonnenschein's health care group, told colleagues the firm was a place to get easy money.

She allegedly told one Huron colleague that "she had given inflated compensation figures for clinical research and health care consultants, and '[Sonnenschein] didn't blink,'" the complaint says. Huron claims that she told another colleague to give Sonnenschein an intentionally low estimate of her billable hours but to ask for more money than she earned at Huron. 

A second defendant, Kevin Eskew, now a managing director at Sonnenschein's health care group, assured one Huron employee that she could expect a 62 percent raise if she jumped to the law firm, the complaint says. He allegedly recruited others in the weeks following his resignation from Huron on March 30.

The tortious interference aspect of the case centers around Gadi Weinreich, global head of Sonnenschein's health care practice. Weinreich, who is not a named defendant, recruited Murtha for about a year.

Once Murtha took the job at Sonnenschein, she allegedly began recruiting her former coworkers. But Weinreich warned one of those coworkers, Stuart Horowitz (who decided to stay with Huron), that it was important that Murtha not contact any Huron employees directly, since that would violate her nonsolicitation agreement, the suit says.

Instead, Weinreich instructed Horowitz to have interested Huron employees contact him directly, the complaint says, and gave Horowitz a list of names of Huron employees "from whom Weinreich hoped to receive a phone call."

Weinreich did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

The suit also says Sonnenschein accidentally posted a profile of one of the Huron defendants (Linda Robinson, now with Sonnenschein) to its Web site before she had left Huron. The firm later took the page down, and Robinson, who joined the firm sometime after April 20, still doesn't have an online profile. 

Jennifer Frost Hennagir, a Huron spokeswoman, has declined to  comment. Christopher Barber, the Steptoe & Johnson partner representing Huron, also declined to comment. 

Download Huron v. Sonnenschein

Make a comment

Comments (0)
Save & Share: Facebook | Del.ic.ious | | Email |

Reprints & Permissions


Report offensive comments to The Am Law Daily.

The comments to this entry are closed.

By: TwitterButtons.com

[email protected]

From the Newswire

Sign up to receive Legal Blog Watch by email
View a Sample