By Lauren C. Sorrell, Krieg DeVault LLP
Over the summer, news broke that several large, prestigious law firms had recently begun requiring new hires and summer associates to sign mandatory arbitration and non-disclosure agreements that would cover all employment-related claims between the employee and the firm. Students at top law schools, including Harvard and Yale, voiced their criticism and laid out specific policy changes that they wanted to see made by their respective schools.
One such proposed change is to campus recruitment policies: a requirement that all firms who recruit on campus drop such provisions from their contracts. As quoted in this article, a Harvard Law student articulated the students’ position as follows: “Having the information out there without changing campus recruitment policies puts the burden on women and other marginalized groups to choose between either (1) opting out of professional opportunities that their peers feel comfortable accepting, or (2) accepting job offers knowing that they have signed away their rights should they experience harassment or discrimination. Because neither of these is an acceptable outcome, we’ll be continuing our push for an across-the-board requirement of all firms recruiting on campus.”
As a first step, students requested that schools require employers who recruit on campus to disclose whether they require summer associates or new hires to sign mandatory arbitration and non-disclosure agreements, as well as to provide information regarding their policies for responding to workplace misconduct. On May 14th, Yale sent a survey letter on behalf of all Top 14 law schools to all of the law firms that recruit on their campuses seeking this information. Next month, the results of the inquiry will be made available to students.
Some firms have already responded to the criticism and outrage, with several having retracted their arbitration and/or non-disclosure agreements. It’s unclear what the next steps will be, but for now, students will at least be able to make more informed decisions about where they’d like to interview and work.
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