Contact: Andrew Rush
Director, Media Services & Public Affairs
October 9, 2007
STATEMENT FROM THE NEW YORK STATE BAR ASSOCIATION ON AGE DISCRIMATION IN THE LEGAL PROFESSION
In response to the announcement today that the Chicago law firm of Sidley Austin has settled the age discrimination lawsuit brought against it by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), New York State Bar President Kate Madigan of Binghamton (Levene Gouldin & Thompson LLP) issued the following statement.
"While we have not seen the settlement agreement, the announcement today that Sidley Austin has settled this case and decided to end its policy requiring partners to retire when they reach a certain age is excellent news for the legal profession. Our Association has strongly advocated for ending age discrimination in the profession, and this position has been endorsed by the American Bar Association.
"Our Special Committee on Age Discrimination in the Profession concluded that mandatory retirement at an arbitrary age is not an acceptable practice. Instead, law firm retirement practices should be governed by flexibility and consideration of the needs of both the firm and the individual partner. We know that many senior lawyers have a lot of productive years left and are still making valuable contributions to the firm.
"We recently sent a letter to major law firms in New York State asking them to make a pledge to end age-based retirement practices and we have already received a dozen commitments, and expect many more in the coming weeks, Discrimination of any kind has no place in the legal profession."
Immediate past president of the New York State Bar Association, Mark H. Alcott (Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP) made ending age discrimination in the profession a signature initiative and appointed the Special Committee that looked closely at this issue. In response to the settlement today, Mr. Alcott said, "The settlement today will have a very significant impact on the legal community and validates everything our association has been advocating for on this issue. Sidley Austin is to be commended for voluntarily agreeing to discontinue age-based mandatory retirement. Our association will continue to be a leader nationally in the call to change retirement practices in the profession and we are glad Sidley Austin, and many others, are voluntarily in agreement."
The 72,000 member New York State Bar Association is the official statewide organization of lawyers in New York and the largest voluntary state bar association in the nation. Founded in 1876, NYSBA programs and activities have continuously served the public and improved the justice system for more than 130 years.