A lawsuit alleging malpractice for pro bono work means two lawsuits against the prominent global firm are generating bad press in recent days.
You probably already know that you must treat pro bono clients equally to paying clients. It’s the right thing to do; it’s also in your own self-interest, because pro bono clients can sue for malpractice the same as any other client.
Two former homeowners allege that Jones Day failed to live up to this standard, ultimately leading to their homelessness. The lawsuit, filed in superior court in Orange County, alleges that lawyers from Jones Day pressured them into a one-sided settlement when defending them against eviction from their mobile homes. Jones Day then dropped them as clients shortly after the agreement was signed, leaving the two to coax cooperation from the landlord and meet the stringent terms of the agreement alone, neither of which they accomplished.
The complaint alleges that Jones Day failed to assert affirmative defenses that could have won the case. For example, the landlord failed to give proper notice when seeking eviction, according to the lawsuit. Further, Jones Day did nothing to seal the case, which means the eviction is on the record and renders the former homeowners “permanently homeless.” The settlement also included an overbroad release of claims, preventing the two from seeking damages for the landlord’s failure to maintain proper security on the premises.
A Recent String of Bad PR
Getting hit with a lawsuit in an area where Jones Day has received accolades is not the kind of press the global powerhouse is looking for just now. In May, The National Law Journal named them to its 2019 Pro Bono Hot List. A lawsuit alleging they tried to quickly get a pro bono case wrapped up when it wasn’t in the clients’ best interest certainly may dampen any further good press.
Jones Day is also, of course, getting frequent mention for a proposed class action against them alleging gender and pregnancy discrimination. That case, being followed closely, has generated several headlines Jones Day could do without. Most recently, media outlets are reporting that one of the claimants in the gender discrimination case may not remain anonymous. The lawsuit is seeking $200 million in damages.
The malpractice claim also references gender bias, claiming that female associates are more likely to be assigned pro bono work that does not have the same visibility for career advancement as other work, the ABA Journal reported.
Of course, Jones Day is no stranger to the spotlight. It is regularly named as the world’s leading big law brand.
Update (08/15/19). That didn't take long. On Wednesday, August 14, Jones Day was hit with another class action, this time over the firm's parental leave policy. Jones Day awards 18 weeks of time off for female primary caregivers, and only 10 for male primary caregivers. Not to be overlooked, the lawsuit also alleges the firm photoshops attorney photos to make female associates more attractive. In this case, according to the lawsuit, "more attractive" meant more caucasian.
So Jones Day has met the rule of three, but the way things are going for the firm, I'm not sure they should rest easy in any case.
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