New York Law Firm Ends Retirement Policy

April 12, 2012 ( - Kelley Drye & Warren, a law firm with over 300 attorneys, agreed to end its policy of requiring partners to give up their equity in the firm once they reach 70 years of age.

The law firm also agreed to pay $574,000 to an attorney who continued to practice at the firm after he turned 70, in order to settle a suit brought by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).   

The agency’s lawsuit, Civil Action No. 10-CV-0655 (LTS)(MHD), filed in the Southern District of New York, charged that under Kelley Drye’s former policy, attorneys who wanted to practice after reaching 70 could only do so by giving up all ownership interest in the firm and instead be compensated through discretionary bonuses. This resulted in significant under-compensation of Eugene T. D’Ablemont, who has continued to practice law full-time at the firm since he turned 70 in 2000.   

Such conduct violates the Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA), which prohibits discrimination based on age, including in compensation. “There is no reason why attorneys who are capable of continuing to practice at 70 either should be forced to retire or otherwise be dissuaded from continuing to work in their chosen profession just because of their age,” said EEOC General Counsel P. David Lopez.  

A number of law firms have been called to task on similar retirement policies in recent years. Perhaps the lawsuit that made the most headlines was brought against Chicago-based Sidley Austin, which in 2007, agreed to pay $27.5 million to settle a suit brought by the EEOC (see “Sidley Austin Decides to Settle ADEA Suit”).