The Firms

April 8, 2010 6:56 PM

Faced with Suit, Kelley Drye Drops Retirement Policy

Posted by Ed Shanahan

The New York Law Journal, an Am Law Daily sibling publication, reports that Kelley Drye & Warren--facing an age discrimination suit filed by the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission--announced late Thursday that it has amended its partnership agreement to allow equity partners to continue working past the age of 70.

Kelley Drye Chairman John Callagy told the NYLJ's Nate Raymond that senior partners will now be judged solely on their performance, like all other partners.  "We did it for various reasons," Callagy said of the change. "It doesn't serve our business interest anymore. And the EEOC wanted us to do it. We told them we would do it, we told them before the lawsuit we would do it."

The NYLJ notes that the decision, which had not been disclosed in the EEOC litigation, came just days after the firm responded to the agency's suit. That suit, filed in January, was prompted by a complaint from Eugene D'Ablemont, a 79-year-old lawyer who had been a Kelley Drye equity partner. Under the system in place prior to the partnership agreement being amended, Kelley Drye required partners to relinquish their equity interest at 70. At that point, they became "life partners" who received annual payments; those, like D'Ablemont, who continued to practice could also receive a bonus.

The EEOC contended that that arrangement discriminated against partners 70 and older who kept working by paying them less.

It was unclear yesterday what effect the decision would have on the EEOC lawsuit. Jeffrey Burstein, a senior attorney at the EEOC in Newark, N.J., handling the case, declined to comment to the NYLJ.

Looking beyond the Kelley Drye case in this story in Thursday's edition of the NYLJ, Raymond explored the question of whether mandatory retirement policies like the firm's have outlived their usefulness in the legal industry.

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