A Haitian woman is suing one of the world's largest law firms for $75 million, claiming that the firm used her only as window dressing because of her race, fired her for complaining about it, and finally blacklisted her in the New York law community.
Caroline Memnon, who is black, says in the lawsuit that despite her $125,000 salary as an associate at the New York office of Londonbased Clifford Chance LLP, she was never given any real work.
"From the inception, the Clifford Chance partners failed to provide me with meaningful legal work," Ms. Memnon says in the suit, filed yesterday in federal court in Manhattan. "I was afforded a series of pointless reviews at Clifford Chance where those performing the review declared that despite my obvious intelligence the practice of law 'was not for someone like me,'" she says.
After firing her in 2002, Clifford Chance, known at the time as Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells, "surreptitiously 'blackballed' [her] within the community of New York law firms," the suit says.
Ms. Memnon had several interviews with prospective employers "mysteriously cancelled at the last minute and promises of employment at other New York law firms never materialized," according to the lawsuit.
"We believe this claim to be without merit and will be contesting the case," a Clifford Chance spokeswoman said.
Two other law firms, Chadbourne & Parke and Manatt Phelps & Phillips, both offered Ms. Memnon employment and then withdrew their offers, according to the lawsuit. A Manatt Phelps spokeswoman said she had no knowledge of the case and declined to comment.
Ms. Memnon said she changed her strategy at the end of 2006 by interviewing with smaller law firms that might have less contact with Clifford Chance. She was hired by Sullivan & Worcester's New York office and began working in February 2007.
Sullivan & Worcester terminated her employment that March, though she billed 143 hours in her first three weeks there, which is above the firm's expectation of 150 hours a month, the suit says.
Sullivan & Worcester is named as a co-defendant in the suit. A spokeswoman said the firm does not comment on pending litigation.