Reed Smith Law Firm: Did Female Attorneys Trade Sex Favors for Assignments?

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At Pittsburgh law firm Reed Smith, female attorneys had to trade sexual favors in order to get assignments - allegedly.

That's what female law partner JoEllen Lyons Dillon contends in a gender discrimination lawsuit filed last Monday against Reed Smith.

Why this can blow the legal profession into a million bits is this: The law firm game operates on what's called 'billable hours.' If you don't pile up enough of those in a year, you could be fired. If you meet your quota of billable hours or exceed it, you are likely to keep your job, receive a bonus, and be considered promotable. More senior or more powerful attorneys in the firm make it possible for you to build those hours by assigning you work.

Lyons Dillon alleges that the assignments 'were diverted' to females who agreed to sexual relations with those who could assign work. Because she didn't engage in this kind of trade off, she claims, she was professionally penalized at Reed Smith.

Lyons Dillon also contends that after she returned from maternity leave, her compensation was cut almost in half. When she objected to the reduction, she claims that she was asked if 'she was done having babies.'

This case is particularly damning because the plaintiff isn't a legal secretary or a new lawyer. She's a partner, which is high rank in the law firm food chain.

This is yet another case in a line of recent gender discrimination suits against law firms, such as Jaki Nelson versus Jones Day and Tameka Simmons versus Akin Gump.

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