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"An old timer schooled me don't burn bridges my friend
Imagine the G-Dub close and yo [expletive] gotta swim."
-50 Cent, "I'm a Hustler"
Don Prophete, 45, doesn't need any bridges. After all, the former Ogletree partner is now a partner at Littler Mendleson - an even bigger BigLaw firm than his former employer. Still, most lawyers would be well-advised to take a different approach to resolving a dispute with a former firm, even if that dispute did involve a team member's honor.
According to Reuters, Prophete penned a 750-word email detailing the dispute that led to his departure, as well as six former firm shareholders, and two associates. The genesis of the exodus began with a female member of Prophete's team. When she made claims of harassment and discrimination to Prophete via email, the managing shareholder, who allegedly ran the office as a "tyrant," reportedly intercepted the messages.
Shortly thereafter, the manager "began to retaliate against the complaining shareholder by excluding her from office decisions, calling her a 'thug,' alleging marital infidelities and disparaging her excellent work product and reputation to the office associates."
Prophete called the firm's response "laissez-faire" and told Reuters that he was unhappy with the firm's response to the dispute.
Prophete's consequences for sending the email, directed to clients and colleagues alike, will likely be nonexistent. As experts consulted by Reuters point out, non-disparagement clauses typically only cover statements made while still employed. His email was after the exodus.
Beyond disparagement lawsuits, when you are as accomplished as he is, and when you depart with multiple now-former shareholders and associates, you're going to be in demand. He did, after all, end up with an even bigger firm less than a month later.
For most attorneys, however, they don't have that sort of leverage. Making disparaging remarks about your former employer usually only serves to make the employee look bitter, and also leads to speculation as to the real reason for the employee's departure.