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Harvard Law Students Call for Venable Boycott Over Arbitration

Feb. 4, 2019, 4:10 PM

The Harvard Law student group that recently got Kirkland & Ellis to drop mandatory arbitration agreements for associates and other staff has launched a campaign against Venable, calling for students to boycott the firm due to its use of similar contracts.

The Pipeline Parity Project,an organization formed last year by law students at Harvard to fight harassment and discrimination in the legal profession, is asking students to decline recruitment interviews with Venable until the firm stops making members of its workforce sign these agreements.

The firm claimed in June 2018 that it wouldn’t require summer associates to arbitrate any claims against the firm, the Pipeline Parity Project said, but the following month a firm-wide email was sent to Venable personnel explaining their legal claims would be subject to mandatory arbitration.

Law firms like Kirkland & Ellis, Munger, Tolles & Olson, and Sidley Austin removed mandatory arbitration clauses from their employment contracts last year after protests from the Pipeline Parity Project and other groups.

Forced arbitration clauses have been widely criticized because they require signatories to relinquish important statutory rights, including when claims relate to discrimination based on race and gender.

Molly Coleman, one of the student organizers for the Pipeline Parity Project, told Bloomberg Law in December that law firms have a “moral responsibility” to not enforce these employment contracts in all situations, including for non-attorney staff as well as on behalf of their clients.

Venable, a firm that employs more than 850 professionals, did not immediately respond to request for comment on the Pipeline Parity announcement.

To contact the reporter on this story: Melissa Heelan Stanzione in Washington at mstanzione@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com