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Ex-Associate’s Reddit Post on Gender Bias Strikes a Chord

April 28, 2016, 1:28 PM

A former Squire Patton Boggs associate took to Reddit this week to announce her resignation from Big Law, calling the legal industry “male-dominated.”

Kristen Jarvis Johnson, who worked at Squire Patton from 2007 to 2016, said in a post on Tuesday that after spending two and a half years in Doha and working on some “amazing projects,” she became “disgusted by luxury lifestyle and lawyers who would give anything and everything to make millions.”

Johnson claimed that she encountered “blatant gender discrimination, sexual harassment, and a very clear glass ceiling,” adding that “having a baby apparently makes you worth less as a lawyer.” (Johnson said she had her second son while living in Doha.) She did not specify claims against any individual lawyers.

Despite earning what she characterized as “a very nice salary” of almost $400,000, Johnson said that the demands of her job took their toll.

“As a lawyer, I was working sometimes 300 hours in a month and missing my kids all the time. I felt guilty for spending any time not firm related. I never had a vacation where I did not work. I missed my dear grandmother’s funeral in December. In March I made the final decision that this could not last. There must be a better way. So I resigned.”

A Squire Patton spokesman expressed disappointment in her comments, and also pointed to the fact that 12 of the most recent 29 partner promotions at the firm were women .

“We are committed to a firm culture that promotes full and equal participation, advancement and retention of women,” said Angelo Kakolyris, a firm spokesman, in a statement.

In an interview, Johnson said that she was surprised by the attention her Reddit post received. As of Wednesday evening, the post had garnered more than 3,000 comments from Reddit users, many of whom were lawyers. She stressed that she wasn’t trying to single out Squire Patton Boggs.

“I’m really not trying to attack one firm,” Johnson said. “I want to make it clear that I’m not an angry, disgruntled associate. I’m a burnt out associate that doesn’t want to live the lifestyle that was promoted by the firm.”

Johnson’s comments were initially picked up on Tuesday by Legal Cheek, an online blog. On Wednesday evening, The American Lawyer published a Q&A interview with Johnson that offered insight into her climb through the law firm ranks.

Johnson declined to provide details around her claims of gender discrimination against Squire Patton Boggs, but pointed to a “large number of women executives leaving the firm” after its merger in 2014 between Squire Sanders and Patton Boggs.

“The final straw was my last review that I had where, after what I considered to be a very hard but successful couple of years in Doha, I was told to work harder and not given a bonus,” she said. “Yet everything about my review was glowing... I thought to myself, ‘I can’t give any more of myself than I can right now.’”

Johnson’s Reddit post is titled IamA burned out international lawyer just returned from Qatar making almost $400k per year, feeling jet lagged and slightly insane at having just quit it all to get my life back, get back in shape, actually see my 2 young boys, and start a toy company, AMA! [“Ask Me Anything!”]

In it, Johnson also promoted the new toy company she has launched with her sister upon leaving Squire PB, called “Boy Story,” which sells boy dolls. She attached a link to her Kickstarter campaign , which has reached $11,700 in pledges with more than 100 backers.

Kakolyris, the Squire Patton Boggs spokesman, stressed in the statement that the firm has many exceptional women leaders, including those who serve on the firm’s global board, practice group leaders and office managing partners, as well as the firm’s general counsel.

“Our Doha office was also founded in 2003 by a woman partner who was the first non-Qatari attorney licensed to practice law in the State of Qatar and supported Ms. Johnson’s move to the office,” he said, and declined further comment.

Ross Campbell contributed to this post.