New York State Bar Association President Vincent E. Doyle III today said he was heartened by the settlement agreement by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and a New York City law firm over an age discrimination complaint.

"Arbitrarily requiring a senior attorney to retire or assume a lesser status in a law firm solely because of age is not an acceptable policy," said Doyle of Buffalo (Connors & Vilardo).

"The retirement policies of law firms should be governed by flexibility and consideration of the needs of the firm and the individual partner," Doyle said, noting the State Bar adopted such a recommen-dation five years ago.

In March 2007, the association's House of Delegates-by a unanimous vote-urged law firms to discontinue age-related retirement policies. That August, at the initiative of the State Bar, the American Bar Association (ABA) approved a similar resolution.

The catalyst for the recommendation was the report of the Special Committee on Age Discrimination in the Profession, which was  appointed by then-State Bar President Mark Alcott of Manhattan (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison). 

"Mandatory age-related retirement is inconsistent with accepted employment practices in this country" and is "against the best interests of law firms, clients and the profession," the report concluded.

"Modern experience demonstrates that this practice is both unwarranted and unwise. A lawyer's age, standing alone, is not an appropriate criterion for determining professional capacity or employment status. A blanket policy of mandatory retirement of law partners is, at best, shortsighted. It shortchanges not only the individual lawyer but the firm and society as a whole," the report also found.

The report is available at www.nysba.org/mandatoryretirement.

A number of law firms have ended their mandatory age-based retirement policies since NYSBA and the ABA condemned such policies.

Last week, the EEOC and Kelley Drye & Warren reached a settlement in a 2010 complaint involving a partner of the firm who was forced to give up his equity status at age 70. The firm amended its policy shortly after the complaint was filed.

As part of the settlement, the firm was permanently enjoined from forcing a partner to retire or otherwise take a reduced status because of age.

The 77,000-member New York State Bar Association is the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation.  It was founded in 1876.

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Contact: Lise Bang-Jensen
Director of Media Services & Public Affairs
lbang-jensen@nysba.org
518/487-5530