A former corporate partner in the New York office of Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge hired in the months before the credit crisis hit is suing the firm after it fired him for failing to meet revenue expectations.
Stephen R. Connoni, who joined the Boston-based firm in September 2007 but left only one year later, sued the firm in April in Manhattan Supreme Court for allegedly "unilaterally and improperly" firing him without a required vote of the partnership and without paying him all that he was owed.
The dispute between Connoni and Edwards Angell highlights the growing pressure on lateral hires in bad economic times to produce, said Marina Sirras, a New York recruiter who is also president of the National Association of Legal Search Consultants.
Firms are less and less likely to tolerate new recruits who do not carry through with bringing over business, she said.
"Firms are very conscious about the bottom line and what you can contribute to it," Sirras said.
Gina Carriuolo, a spokeswoman for Edwards Angell, said the firm does not comment on pending matters.
But in court papers the law firm contends Connoni breached the terms of his agreement by failing to bring in the business he had promised. And, it argues, in any case the employment dispute should be settled through arbitration.
Connoni acknowledges that he had not generated the $1.9 million in business projected in his agreement with the firm but argues Edwards Angell should have adjusted its expectations, given the economic meltdown.
A hearing will be held before Justice Richard Lowe on Aug. 4 on the firm's motion to dismiss in Connoni v. Edwards Angell Palmer & Dodge, 601291/2009.
Meanwhile, an arbitration claim the firm filed in May is pending in Boston. Connoni has moved to stay the arbitration.
Edwards Angell, a general practice firm with Boston roots, opened shop in New York in 1978. Today, the office has 74 of the firm's 550 attorneys. Of those, 40 are listed on the firm's Web site as partners.
Edwards Angell recruited Connoni from K&L Gates, where Connoni says he was an equity partner in the New York office and worked for about eight years. At K&L Gates, Connoni said he was co-leader of a team that grew the New York corporate department from zero lawyers when he started to 25 with $14 million in revenue at the time he left.
K&L Gates chairman Peter Kalis declined to say if those facts or numbers were accurate.
According to his complaint, Connoni began talking in summer 2007 with Edwards Angell about joining the firm and helping it grow its New York corporate practice. The firm hired him that September as a contract partner.
Under a letter signed by co-managing partner Terrence M. Finn and "agreed to" by Connoni, the firm was to pay him $625,000 in 2008 provided he generated $1.9 million of new business and himself collected $800,000 in fees.
Starting in 2009, the firm would determine his compensation on the same basis as other capital partners, the agreement states.