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Former Practice Chair Says Dentons Owes Her Over $390K

April 30, 2019, 5:21 PM

The former chair of Dentons government contracts practice group, Jessica Abrahams, has filed a complaint against the firm claiming Dentons owes her more than $390,000, but the firm has fired back, saying it’s actually Abrahams who owes the firm almost $2 million in client fees.

Abrahams, who now heads the government contracts team at Drinker Biddle & Reath, filed a complaint April 29 in D.C. Superior Court. She claims Dentons breached a contract that guaranteed she’d have the funds in her capital account returned to her if she left the firm.

Abrahams said in the complaint she ultimately left Dentons due to concerns about the firm’s operations. She seeks the return of the capital account plus any interest and fees.

In an emailed statement, Dentons said it fulfilled its obligations to Abrahams and called her suit a “kitchen sink attempt” to disparage the firm publicly.

“The reality is that, when Ms. Abrahams left, Dentons was owed more than $1.8 million from her clients and those fees and costs largely remain outstanding today,” the statement said. “The complaint, which was filed after Dentons expressed concerns about these receivables and her compliance with her partnership obligations, is a blatant and baseless attempt to divert attention from these key facts and her failure to resolve these issues.”

Claims Against the Firm

Abrahams is a former partner at McKenna Long & Aldridge, which merged with Dentons in July 2015.

According to the complaint, she signed a side letter with Dentons around March 2015, as the firms were gearing up to merge. The letter guaranteed she’d receive her capital account funds back on the terms specified by McKenna Long & Aldridge’s partnership agreement if she left Dentons by June 2018. The partnership agreement, the complaint said, required payout of partners’ capital accounts upon their exit in two installments.

After the merger was completed, the complaint said, Abrahams began to have “significant concerns” about Dentons.

“Abrahams learned of numerous significant accounting and billing irregularities and resultant tax issues,” the complaint said. “The environment at the firm was also one that ignored open and obvious sexual harassment, and gender and age discrimination.”

The complaint added that Abrahams found Dentons “rewarded relationships over merit.” It also said the firm did not make budget after the merger—and that it hadn’t for years before, but declined to disclose this to McKenna Long & Aldridge partners.

The firm declined to pay Abrahams when she announced she was leaving, and asked that she return a $17,000 bonus she received in 2016, according to the claims.

Abrahams is represented by Mark London and Lance Robinson of London & Mead in Washington.

To contact the reporter on this story: Rebekah Mintzer in New York at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jessie Kokrda Kamens at jkamens@bloomberglaw.com

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