It was the Golden Age of BigLaw. That was before the crash in the legal sector - 2009. That year, about 6,000 lawyers lost their jobs.
While the gold still glowed, an associate at Sullivan & Cromwell- Aaron Charney - shocked the world. He became The Story, both in legal media such as Abovethelaw.com and in general media such as The New York Times.
Charney sued his employer for alleged discrimination based on his sexual orientation.
In those days having a job in BigLaw represented the pinnacle of success. Those fortunate enough to be in that position did whatever to hold onto that and move on to become a partner. Meanwhile, law schools had many more applications from the best and the brightest than they could admit.
Charney watchers smirked. He was finished, they concluded.
But, no, he wasn't.
There was a confidential settlement. Large enough for him to buy a nice piece of Manhattan real estate. In addition, he was hired by another BigLaw firm - Clifford Chance.
Yes, Charney was ahead of his time.
Now, of course, even partners are suing BigLaw. The legal sector Boswell on those is lawyer-journalist Kathryn Rubino at Abovethelaw.com. Here is Rubino's column on the Kerrie Campbell's class action lawsuit for alleged gender discrimination - and how BigLaw pushed back.
Charney also had been ahead of his time in opting for an in-house job versus sticking with BigLaw. As David Lat at Abovethelaw.com reported in September 2016, Charney eventually went to American Tower Corp in Boston. There he has been vice president of corporate legal finance and risk management. Here you can read Lat's update.
Not so long ago, exiting BigLaw for in-house was unthinkable.
When Jones Day partner Mark Herrmann took that road less traveled as an in-house at Aon, the world was as stunned as it had been when Charney sued.
Soon enough, though, in one of his weekly columns at Abovethelaw.com, Herrmann discussed how many BigLaw partners had contacted him about obtaining an in-house position.
That's because partners were becoming the new associates: They were being targeted for both formal and stealth layoffs. Most recently, Husch Blackwell cut loose partners. Sedgwick will shut down entirely by the end of the year. To hang on, partners, even equity ones, need enough billable hours and adequate new business development.
Along his unusual journey, Charney has been investing in real estate. Also, he has maintained a loving, stable relationship with Benjamin Hanani.
The takeaway from the Charney saga may be: Resolve in 2018 to take more professional risks.
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