Can a company be held liable for failing to deliver on promises made during a job interview?
One former Dechert associate thinks so and has filed suit against the firm claiming it exaggerated the extent of its corporate work in order to woo him, did not provide the touted opportunities, and then fired him in part because he is an Orthodox Jew.
In his complaint -- filed in New York trial court by attorney Neil Brickman -- the ex-Dechert associate, Marc Lubin, says he has worked at four Am Law 100 firms since graduating from Columbia Law School in 1994. Dechert was the last of those firms; Lubin jumped there from Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom in October 2002 because, according to the complaint, he felt "he should be gaining greater experience in a wider variety of structured finance deals."
Lubin says Dechert, especially partner Malcolm Dorris, told him during interviews that he would participate in endless transactional work with major clients -- even boasting that Dechert was "S&P's main outside counsel." (While the complaint doesn't say so, the reference is presumably to Standard & Poor's.)
Lubin's suit says that when he decided to take the Dechert job, he spurned two other offers -- including one from "an international bank" -- and took a 20 percent pay cut from his $215,000 Skadden salary.
But once he started at Dechert, Lubin claims, the promised opportunities failed to materialize. The lone deal the firm was involved in at the time -- over how to split up proceeds from tobacco litigation -- soon collapsed, leaving Lubin to do what the suit describes as "glorified paralegal work."
Then in January 2004, Lubin says, Dorris fired him. When Lubin asked why, the complaint states, Dorris answered, "People did not like his work." When Lubin pressed for written evidence of the firm's displeasure, Dorris said there was none and added that Lubin "was different."
The complaint states that Lubin "understood this categorization to refer to his religious status as an Orthodox Jew, which required him to eat kosher food and precluded his attendance at various firm functions, including the then recent Christmas party."
Dechert declined to comment on the suit. Lubin, who is currently unemployed, is seeking nearly $6 million in back pay, lost earnings and punitive damages. He could not be reached for comment; his lawyer, Brickman, did not return messages seeking comment.
This article first appeared on The Am Law Daily blog on AmericanLawyer.com.