Meet the Four Havard Law Grads Taking on the Entire Legal System

On a brisk morning in October 2019, a group of students from top U.S. law schools gathered outside the offices of the corporate law firm DLA Piper in Washington, D.C. They handed out leaflets decrying the firm’s mandatory arbitration policy, which had recently stopped a lawyer at the firm from taking her sexual assault claims to court, and called on law students to boycott interviews with the firm until it promised to end mandatory arbitration. The protesters are part of a new legal labor movement hoping to eradicate sexual harassment in the legal profession. They were organized by the People’s Parity Project, a group founded by four women at Harvard Law School with the aim of eliminating mandatory arbitration provisions and ending what they describe as the legal profession itself allowing harassment of and discrimination against workers.

Sanford Heisler, After Pushing Discrimination Claims, Faces Them

Sanford Heisler Sharp, the civil rights law firm known for bringing discrimination lawsuits against Big Law firms, is facing allegations of bias and discrimination from its own employees. More than two dozen legal assistants claim gender and racial discrimination by attorneys and that the firm repeatedly failed to address their concerns. The allegations are detailed in a letter the assistants sent to firm leaders June 25. The letter alleged senior attorneys made racist comments such as “These Asian names give me so much trouble. Bing bong bing bong!” and “That shirt makes you look like you’re in a gang,” referring to a college minority affinity group t-shirt.

How to build a diverse and inclusive workforce as a small business

Diversity and inclusion departments and initiatives have become a must-have at large corporations over the last few years, but equitable workplaces aren't just for big companies. It's important for small businesses to hire a diverse workforce and foster an inclusive atmosphere as well if they want to maintain top talent. Equity is a virtue in and of itself, but research also shows that diverse teams lead to more innovation and higher employee satisfaction. Although small businesses don't have nearly the same resources as the multinationals, they're actually better poised to make diversity and inclusion part of their culture from the ground up. Business Insider spoke with leading experts to break down best practices for small businesses hoping to widen the universe of candidates they interview, hire, and retain.

How to decide whether to furlough or lay off staff — and the costs and benefits of each, according to experts

With business slowing to a trickle or even a standstill amidst the coronavirus pandemic, many entrepreneurs are faced with the stark reality that they can't afford to continue paying their workers — and must consider whether it's worth furloughing them for the time being or laying them off completely. Business Insider spoke with experts on the issue to help small business owners navigate this rough terrain and decide what's best for their team and company.

The Pandemic Is Putting Law Students’ Futures on Hold

As students graduating from the nation’s medical schools prepare to step into the front lines fighting the novel coronavirus, their law school counterparts confront a far more uncertain future. Front of mind for many is that states are postponing bar exams because of social distancing guidelines. Molly Savage, a third-year student at Wayne State University Law School in Detroit, recently helped put together a petition asking the state of Michigan to waive [bar] exam requirements. “To me, it’s my ability to use this degree that I’ve spent three years working on,” Savage says. “I can’t get a law job if I don’t have admission to the bar.”

Battle to regain control of Pacifica’s WBAI continues in court

Local hosts have regained access to studios at Pacifica’s WBAI but remain off the air, with control of the station subject to a pending legal dispute that is dividing the network’s board of directors. Dueling factions of the board both claim that the opposing side has misinterpreted the foundation’s bylaws. Their legal tussle has gone from state court to federal court and back to state court, with a federal judge urging the two sides to reach a deal. The legal dispute hinges on who has the power to make decisions about WBAI under Pacifica’s bylaws. But the underlying disagreements run much deeper, with competing narratives of why the layoffs occurred.

Sanford Heisler, The Firm Helping Female Lawyers Sue Big Law

When associate Nilab Rahyar Tolton left Jones Day in early 2018, she was still reeling from the effects of what she called implicit and explicit biases against women at the firm. She said male partners commented on her appearance and assigned her secretarial-type work. After two pregnancies, Tolton said leadership paid lip service to the challenges of returning from maternity leave but then criticized her for not working enough, eventually suggesting she exit the firm. “I thought I was going to try to process or find closure for myself or move on,” she said. But several months later, she read a story about former Jones Day partner Wendy Moore, who was suing the firm for gender discrimination. Moore is represented by national plaintiffs’ firm Sanford Heisler Sharp. “It became sort of a question of moral responsibility for me,” Tolton said of her decision to reach out to Sanford Heisler with her own story.

Turning a KKK Bombing Ground Into an Urban Farm

The lot doesn’t look like much: Short stacks of tires line a small rectangle of flattened cardboard boxes, all interspersed with bright green vines of invasive kudzu. To Rev. Majadi Baruti, however, it’s a pumpkin patch and future urban farm. The tires are planters for young Sugar Baby pumpkins, the cardboard will keep weeds down and attract worms to fertilize the soil, and the kudzu will work wonders for compost because of its nitrogen content. Two patches of what looks like empty soil will soon sprout flowers, which will then “bring bees and butterflies,” says Baruti.

Ties that Bind

In the summer of 2016, Adam Merberg was offered a job as a data scientist at AbleTo, a behavioral health care company based in New York City. After he verbally accepted the job offer, a corporate recruiter sent him an email letting him know the company would be running a routine background check. “Also attached is a confidentiality agreement,” the recruiter wrote. “Please review, complete, sign, and return to me as soon as possible.” The agreement included a non-compete clause prohibiting Merberg from working at any of the company’s competitors for twelve months after leaving. Merberg, who had recently completed a Ph.D. in mathematics, didn’t consider how this might later affect him.

The Supreme Court’s War Against Workers

Gorsuch’s decision ignores all power imbalances between employers and employees. “Should employees and employers be allowed to agree that any disputes between them will be resolved through one-on-one arbitration?” he writes. “Or should employees always be permitted to bring their claims in class or collective actions, no matter what they agreed with their employers?” The problem with this argument is that it presumes these contracts are drafted up by two teams of lawyers representing parties of equal power, not legal documents created by corporate law departments and shoved under the noses of unwitting employees on their first day of work. Later on, Gorsuch writes of “the parties,” plural, who “proceeded to specify the rules that would govern their arbitrations,” as if every low-wage worker consults a contract lawyer before signing off on their HR paperwork.

Law Students Push Back Against Mandatory Arbitration

To participate in on-campus summer recruiting, law firms will soon need to say if incoming associates will be subject to mandatory arbitration for employment-related disputes, and if so, if those agreements also include non-disclosure provisions. The initiative is the result of grassroots campaigns mounted by students at top U.S. law schools, who believe mandatory arbitration agreements effectively force employees to sign away their rights to go to court if they ever experience illegal treatment in the workplace.

As EIC of Religion News Service is ousted, staff fears loss of editorial control

Early in the morning on Monday, April 23, members and followers of the “God beat” awoke to upsetting news. “I am no longer at @RNS, and that’s about all I can say,” tweeted Jerome Socolovsky, until then the editor in chief of Religion News Service. “It was an honor to lead such a dazzling news team.” His departure—later revealed to be a firing—seemed to come out of nowhere. But current and former staff members say it has, in fact, been a long time coming: the culmination of months of tension between Socolovsky and RNS Publisher Tom Gallagher, whom many believe has taken control over the newsroom.

How to End the Silence Around Sexual-Harassment Settlements

When the news of Harvey Weinstein’s serial sexual predation broke in early October, part of what was so shocking was that many of the women harassed by Weinstein had privately come forward with their claims, only to be paid off by his company in exchange for their silence. To address the harms that confidentiality requirements impose, lawmakers in a handful of states have floated bills to bar nondisclosure provisions in employment contracts and in settlements relating to claims of discrimination, retaliation, and harassment. But some advocates warn that barring confidentiality provisions may hurt victims in the process.

#MeToo Movement Brings Busy Times for Labor Lawyers

What began in October with reports about Harvey Weinstein’s alleged serial sexual predation has sparked a viral engagement with the #metoo social media movement, a national conversation about sexual misconduct, and a wave of high-profile workplace sexual harassment allegations in entertainment, media and politics that shows no sign of letting up. On Monday, Ninth Circuit Judge Alex Kozinski announced via his lawyers at Quinn Emanuel Urquhart that he will retire immediately following allegations of sexual misconduct from more than a dozen women. The cultural phenomenon has created work for lawyers, from creating new internal policies at corporations, to advising them on upcoming legislation that could fundamentally change how sexual harassment allegations are settled.

Big Law Firms Show Sharp Divide Between Attorney and Staff Parental Leave

Many Big Law firms promote generous paid parental leave policies in order to woo young lawyers hoping to start a family, but those benefits often don’t apply at the same levels to staff providing support work, an analysis by Big Law Business has found. The numbers show that law firm staff do better than their counterparts in similarly paid jobs, but that law firm paid leave policies still lag behind some of the biggest U.S. companies.

Why Women Leave Big Law To Start Their Own Firms

Peggy McCausland was tired of her firm’s networking events.The potential clientele she wanted to woo — business women — weren’t showing up, she said. So McCausland conceived her own networking event that would draw them — golf lessons, catered meals and shop talk — and asked for the necessary marketing funds. She was a partner at the firm, Blank Rome, after all. “The response I got from [a senior partner] was, ‘Where are you going to find a golf course that’s gonna let a bunch of amateur women come hack it to bits?’” McCausland recalled ten years later.

Today’s Law Degree Takes on a Broader Meaning

It can be awkward for law school deans to talk about: As the number of law graduates continues to decline nationwide, more are getting jobs that don’t require a law degree. That’s not such a good look for law schools, where many students attend with high hopes of earning a place at a prestigious law firm, or, at the very least, practicing law after they graduate. Now, some deans are trying to embrace the change rather than fight it, launching training programs for students in areas outside of law — like technology — and speaking publicly about alternative career paths.

The Aggressive Anti-Union Campaign at StoryCorps

Justin Williams has long been working to combine his interests in storytelling with activism for social justice. At the production company Kartemquin Films, for example, he coached emerging filmmakers of color through their first full-length documentaries. So when he was offered the chance to work as a facilitator for StoryCorps, the nonprofit media and cultural-heritage company dedicated to “preserving people’s stories,” Williams jumped at it. He was drawn to StoryCorps because of its simplicity (stories are recorded as 40-minute conversations between two people who know each other), its wide audience (stories are regularly broadcast via NPR), and its commitment to the representation of marginalized populations who would not otherwise have access to public media. And yet, when a group of employees told management of their intention to unionize in late May, the organization declined to voluntarily recognize the union.
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