March 01, 2019

MONTH-IN-BRIEF: Legal Opinions & Ethics

Keith Fisher, Christina Houston

Professional Responsibility

Harvard Law Students Target “BigLaw” Employment Agreements

By Keith R. Fisher

A group of Harvard Law students calling themselves the Pipeline Parity Project (PPP) have attacked several large law firms that require employees to arbitrate employment issues, including discrimination and sexual harassment claims.  PPP opposes forcing employees to “forfeit their civil rights as a condition of employment.” 

The group urges fellow students to boycott interviewing at such firms, and “#DumpKirkland” has already been successful in getting Kirkland & Ellis to eliminate mandatory arbitration provisions in its employment contracts for associates.  Sidley & Austin followed suit proactively, before becaming a PPP target, and approximately a  year ago Munger, Tolles & Olsen discontinued using such provisions with summer associates when it came under fire for doing so.   But DLA Piper last November refused to change its policies.

In early February, PPP inaugurated #DumpVenable, attacking the firm for promising that summer associates would be subject to such provisions but then reneging on that promise.   The group’s efforts are not limited to Harvard interviewees, however, but more broadly encourage law student groups around the country “who may be sponsored by Venable or other firms using forced arbitration” to refuse such sponsorships.

Keith Fisher

Principal Consultent and Senior Counsel, National Center for State Courts

An honors graduate of Princeton University and Georgetown University Law Center, Keith Fisher joined the National Center for State Courts in 2015 as Principal Consultant and Senior Counsel for Domestic and International Court Initiatives.  He is an experienced lawyer and law professor and is a nationally known expert on domestic and international financial services regulation and legal and judicial ethics.  Recent speaking engagements on domestic and international  ethics issues include the Center for Judicial Ethics National Judicial College, the International Conference on Court Excellence in Singapore, the Professional Responsibility Training Session for Immigration Judges, an American-Hellenic Chamber of Commerce Symposium on Improving the Greek Court System, the Magistrature de Quebec’s Colloque soulignant les 40 ans du Conseil de la magistrature, the U.N.’s Global Judicial Integrity Network conference on social media in Vienna, and the Konrad Adenauer Stiftung’s conference on judicial ethics and social media..  He also serves on the Board of Editors for UNESCO publications on judicial bioethics.

Christina Houston

Counsel, DLA Piper

Christina’s practice focuses on legal opinions, LLCs, partnerships, trusts and corporations and general commercial transactions. Christina is a member of the Partnership and Limited Liability Company Committee of the Corporation Law Section of the Delaware State Bar Association, which is responsible for annually reviewing and updating Delaware’s partnership and LLC statutes. Christina also is actively involved in the Legal Opinions Committee of the American Bar Association Business Law Section, the Committee on LLCs, Partnerships and Unincorporated Business Associations and the Business Law Basics Committee of the Business Law Section of the American Bar Association. She is the current Chair of the Opinion Issues in LLCs Subcommittee. Christina is a member of the TriBar Opinion Committee.