ContractsProf Blog

Editor: Myanna Dellinger
University of South Dakota School of Law

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lawyer Sues Firm for Breach of Contract, Inter Alia

As reported in The Am Law Daily, in a case reminiscent of that Business Organizations chestnut, Day v. Sidley & Austin, attorney Raymond J. Carey is suing his firm, Foley & Lardner, for breach of contract and others claims, as reflected in this complaint.  The complaint alleges that F&L is operating as an employer of its partners instead of a partnership, with the Management Committee (appointed by itself) running the show.

According to the complaint, Carey, a labor and employment partner, joined the firm in 2000 after being sought out as part of an effort by the firm to open a Detroit office (which may or may not be visible in the night photo of the Detroit skyline below).  Carey alleges F&L induced him to leave his equity partnership with another firm with an assortment of promises about his status at F&L that he now claims F&L had no intention of keeping.   Those promises included a position as a full partner in F&L, guaranteed minimum monthly and annual compensation, which was to increase annually based on Carey's productivity, and a guarantee that he would be treated on a par with other F&L partners.  Negotiations were protracted, allegedly due to F&L's refusal to provide documentation that Carey requested.  Carey claims that he only accepted F&L's offer, which attached conditions to which he did not agree, because F&L posted his biography on its firm website, thus destroying his relationship with the firm at which he was then a partner.

Carey alleges that F&L did not honors its promises made during the contractual negotiations.  Instead, the complaint alleges, he was denied partnership status until 2003.  Even after this, F&L took away earnings rightfully owed to him by misrepresenting client relationships. During this period, Carey claims he was never even allowed to see his partnership agreement.  When he eventually signed on as partner, Carey claims, F&L sent him only signature pages and refused to share with him the entire partnership agreement to which he became a party.

Carey, a 57 year old white male, was among the lowest paid F&L partners in 2010.  Although he claims that he is the victim of "a pattern of discrimination on account of gender, race and age," he also alleges that he was discriminated against because he "continued to complain" to F&L's management that F&L had breached various promises relating to his conditions of employment.  Carey claims that he has billed millions of dollars of hours for the firm and had equal or greater personal productivity than similarly situated F&L partners who are better compensated than he is.

Carey's breach of contract claim is interesting.  He is alleging a breach of contract dating back to "at least October 2001" as evidenced by conduct in fiscal years 2005 through 2010.

[Katherine Freeman & JT]

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