I’ve written several times on this blog about the impressive student-led advocacy against mandatory arbitration. After Ian Samuel broke the news that one major law firm was attempting to force its summer associates to sign mandatory confidential arbitration agreements, several firms reversed course. Law students then got their career services offices (and the career services at a bunch of top law schools) to demand information from law firms recruiting on campus about whether the firms required their employees to sign arbitration agreements.
Now that the results are in, the question is whether law schools will put any more muscle behind their students. The reason why that might be necessary is because almost half of the firms—nearly 200 of them!—elected not to respond to the survey at all. That decision blunts any effort to enable even the most minimal feedback mechanism to address mandatory arbitration—namely, to allow students to make a decision about whether they will go to a firm that employs mandatory arbitration or not. There are serious questions about whether disclosure is a sufficient solution; as I’ve noted, Adam Levitin has offered some reasons why disclosure may not be enough. But no one thinks that secrecy, and allowing firms to force mandatory arbitration agreements on employees who have already accepted offers, is a good arrangement. Hiding these agreements in the dark is what has allowed them to persist for so long, and some number of these firms are probably just fine with that.
Then there are the firms that apparently launched a full-throated defense of arbitration, or at least an attempt at it. One firm noted that arbitration can be efficient. While true, that’s beside the point—arbitration has some benefits, many of which are benefits to employers. And while some of arbitration’s benefits may go to employees, why not allow employees to opt into arbitration when it makes sense for them too?
As I said we got the firms’ response. Now we will wait to see how the law students and law schools respond.