As readers of this blog may know, law students at several schools have been organizing around law firms’ use of mandatory arbitration agreements. After at least one major law firm attempted to force incoming summer associates to sign agreements requiring them to confidentially arbitrate all employment-related claims (including sexual harassment claims), news of the agreement leaked and the firm rescinded the agreements. At least two other firms followed suit, and law students at several schools quickly organized letters asking their schools to look into other firms’ use of mandatory arbitration agreements for employment-related claims.
Thanks to the effort of these students, the career services deans of a bunch of top law schools sent out a letter asking firms to report whether they require employees to sign mandatory arbitration or nondisclosure agreements. It’s a positive step, and a real testament to the tenacity and focus of the students who maintained their schools’ focus on the issue. But disclosure may not be a perfect solution as Adam Levitin explained at Credit Slips. The law students who are organizing recognize as much too, with one students (Molly Coleman), telling Inside Higher Ed that:
“Contractually surrendering rights contributes to workplace cultures in which discrimination and harassment are facts of life for too many women who work for law firms…. We are pleased that we will soon have a better sense of the scope of the problem, but we know this is just a first step toward our ultimate goal of firms dropping these contract provisions for employees at all levels.”
But for the moment, the letter that went out to law schools from career services is an occasion to celebrate and hope there are more positive developments to come.