First Year Associate Fired After Telling Partners He Had A 'Superior Legal Mind' Sues Firm For $77 Million

from the creative-legal-strategies dept

Lawyers filing lawsuits on their own behalf are always interesting specimen. Witness the case of Gregory Berry, a recent graduate of UPenn's law school, who got a job at big law firm Kasowitz, Benson, Torres & Friedman. Like most first year associates, he was given work that wasn't all that interesting, but that's the life of a first year associate at a big law firm. Mr. Berry decided to take it upon himself to shake things up and sent an email to some partners talking up his "superior legal mind," compared to others at the firm and asking for more important work to focus on. This came a few months after he had already been reprimanded over a separate incident concerning his (perhaps reasonable) inability to work on a particular case (he claimed he was too busy on other cases). Either way, the firm decided that Mr. Berry was best suited elsewhere, gave him a severance package and even let him hang onto his work email, voicemail and secretarial answering service for a while. Hell, to make it easier for him to find another job, they even told him he could keep his bio on the website.

So he turned around and sued the firm along with a partner and an associate he felt were instrumental in his firing... for $77 million.

The email that pushed the firm over the edge read, in part:
It has become clear that the only limiting factor on how much value I am to a case is how much responsibility I am given: the more responsibility I am given, the better the outcome. I am in kind of an uncomfortable position at the firm because although I am a “first year,” I have 15 years business and real world experience, as much as many senior associates. When I first got here I did not know what to expect, but after working here for several months now it has become clear that I have as much experience and ability as an associate many years my senior, as much skill writing, and a superior legal mind to most I have met.
A partner explained to Berry that this email had "upset" some partners and that it had "burned bridges" at the firm. A few days later, he was fired.

Reading the case itself is hilarious and highly recommended. Basically, it sounds like any very typical office situation where there's a minor dispute, but Berry plays up each action. He also plays up his own abilities. My favorite line is this one:
After conquering Silicon Valley, he decided to take his talents in a new direction, and in 2007 began law school at the University of Pennsylvania Law School in Philadelphia, PA
I also like how he portrays a pretty standard move. After he told an (more senior) associate that he probably was too busy to work on her project, she forwarded his email to a partner. But, look at the way Berry tells the story:
Mr. Berry’s communications were, as Ms. Conroy knew, entirely proper under the duties of his employment. Upon information and belief, refusing her project nonetheless angered Ms. Conroy and she lashed out by maliciously "reporting" Mr. Berry's e-mail to Mr. Marks.

Such vindictiveness is outside the scope of Ms. Conroy’s employment.

Complaining to Mr. Marks had no purpose other than to harm Mr. Berry and interfere with his employment.
Can you imagine what kind of world we would live in if every time an employee complained about another employee, it was deemed to have "no purpose other than to interfere" with someone's employment? And, I'm now planning to use "such vindictiveness is outside the scope of your employment" as much as possible in future conversations.

Oh, and after he got fired and went through all of this, he still wrote the partners at the firm to ask for a letter of recommendation.

While he's now set up his own law firm, where he advertises "creative and cutting-edge legal strategies," he claims in the lawsuit that the firing will cost him $2.55 million in "lost income." Then there's an additional $25 million for "emotional distress" and the harm to his career and reputation. Finally, another $50 million in punitive damages. Just because.

I am curious, of course, which thing people think will damage his reputation more. Getting fired by a big law firm... or then turning around suing that firm for $77 million?


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    icon
    WDS (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 9:46am

    They gave him what he asked for!

    He said in his e-mail "It has become clear that the only limiting factor on how much value I am to a case is how much responsibility I am given: the more responsibility I am given, the better the outcome."

    The firm gave him 100% responsibility, for finding his cases, for trying his cases, etc.

     

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  2.  
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    evilned, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 9:53am

    Thank you

    I would like to thank Tech Dirt for providing incredibly useful information. I now know which lawyer I will NEVER EVER call if I require representation. :)

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 9:58am

    For $77Million dollars I can handle a lot of bad reputation.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 9:59am

    Lord, spare us from "creative and cutting-edge" lawyers.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:03am

    I'm going to set up a kiosk outside this guy's house selling "I'm sorry, I can't hear you over the sound of how awesome I am" t-shirts. I bet he'll buy my entire stock every day!

     

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  6.  
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    DogBreath, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:07am

    I'd be afraid to have him as my lawyer

    If he lost my case, he'd probably end up suing me for the "emotional distress" it caused him and the "lost future income" from destroying his impeccable track record of "winning".

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:13am

    If he's willing to sue an employer, he's a bad risk.

    Which means his chances of ever getting another legal job are somewhere between slim and fat.

     

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  8.  
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    nasch (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:14am

    Cutting edge

    Is it cutting edge to advertise to any potential employers that it would be extremely risky to hire you?

     

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  9.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:15am

    From his second e-mail to Ms. Conroy -

    The thing I am concerned about is that you need someone to “own” the doc review. I am more than happy to help, it’s a necessary evil, but I need to temper the expectation that it can consume my time, preventing me from doing my real work. Maybe we can find a first year that would benefit more from this opportunity?

    Now, I've never stepped foot in a law school, but even *I* know that telling a managing attorney that helping her on her case is a "necessary evil" and not "real work" are severely career-limiting moves.

    Perhaps his Superior Legal Mind™ was so full of grandiose legal theories that there was no room left for common sense.

     

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  10.  
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    ExceptionHandler, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:20am

    Spare us from lawyers period...

     

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  11.  
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    HothMonster, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:20am

    Re:

    lots of cases require a lot of stupid busy work that can be easily handled by paralegals or morons. This guy just didn't want to pay his dues and spend his first couple years doing grunt work. He feels he is entitled and superior, and got the reward most people get when they think the deserve to be the boss their first day at a new job.

     

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  12.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:22am

    Do it yourself...

    Go start your own law firm, Mr. Superior Jackass...

     

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  13.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:26am

    Any truth to the rumor that he's Sheldon Cooper's brother?

     

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  14.  
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    Anonymous Cowherd (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:30am

    Sounds like he'll be bagging groceries for a while.

     

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  15.  
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    DogBreath, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:41am

    The best thing that could happen

    is a judge finds someone was 100% instrumental in getting him fired. A one "Mr. Gregory Berry", and place a judgment against him for the sum of $77 million dollars. Then immediately turn it over to some collection agencies who can harass him for the next several years for not paying "Mr. Gregory Berry"s judgment to "Mr. Gregory Berry".

    Sometimes you have to go overboard and smash 'superior legal minds' with a mountain. It's the only way they'll ever learn. If they don't, hey at least you got to enjoy it.

     

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  16.  
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    fogbugzd (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:52am

    General rule of thumb:

    If someone feels a need to tell you that they have a "superior mind" then you can be pretty sure that they don't.

     

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  17.  
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    BW (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:53am

    Re: Thank you

    On the contrary,

    I like his way of thinking. Clearly a case can be made on anything, and he has just gotten himself a whole bunch of free publicity. Remember, it's better to be infamous than unknown.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 10:54am

    "I am curious, of course, which thing people think will damage his reputation more. Getting fired by a big law firm... or then turning around suing that firm for $77 million?"

    If he were to win, I would be inclined to believe that he has a 'Superior Legal Mind'

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:02am

    You know, there's something to be said about having a superior legal mind, then suing without merit for $77 million. If he wins, he might be right. A superior legal mind is not the same thing as a superior mind.

    And if I'm right, our legal system is screwed.

     

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  20.  
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    Greg G (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:06am

    Re: I'd be afraid to have him as my lawyer

    Maybe he should get with Charlie Sheen...

     

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  21.  
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    ITWARZ, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:08am

    It Is What It Is...

    The firm gave him 100% responsibility, for finding his cases, for trying his cases, etc. ------------ ...and he did just that, his new case a $77,000,000.00 doozy! - ITWARZ

     

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  22.  
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    The Devil's Coachman (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:12am

    Narcissism redefined!

    One gasps in amazement! Too bad they couldn't just get him in a room and pimp-slap him until he learned to STFU, or GTFOH. Either way would have been fine. But no, they're lawyers, and wouldn't ever confront this kind of idiocy directly. Somehow, I have the feeling that they all truly deserve one another.

     

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  23.  
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    Overcast (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:14am

    Is he related to Khan maybe?

     

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  24.  
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    cc (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:16am

    Re:

    No, but I heard his Superior Legal Mind loses its powers when he approaches Kryptonite.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:23am

    Re: If he's willing to sue an employer, he's a bad risk.

    So his chances are average?..

     

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  26.  
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    DogBreath, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:24am

    Re: Re: I'd be afraid to have him as my lawyer

    I wouldn't be the least bit surprised to see Charlie Sheen doing TV commercials for this lawyer.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:27am

    Re: Re:

    I hear that contributing to the GDP=Kryptonite

    Now quit wasting our time and money by getting a real job.

     

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  28.  
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    taoareyou (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:32am

    Re:

    KHAAAAAAAAAAANN!

     

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  29.  
    identicon
    DogBreath, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:34am

    Re:

    Even if he isn't related, it's about time to bring in Denny Crane to fight this lawsuit. It would be a pay-per-view event I actually want to see.

     

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  30.  
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    wishy (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:36am

    What was it Dick the Butcher said?
    "first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers"?

    Wasn't there a time when being a lawyer was an honorable thing?

     

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  31.  
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    Berenerd (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:40am

    Re: I'd be afraid to have him as my lawyer

    Are you saying he is Martin Sheen's lawyer?

     

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  32.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:44am

    But how will they defend themselves...

    now that they've lost their most superior legal mind?

     

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  33.  
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    Motheius, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 11:48am

    It could have already been said

    However there is no such thing as bad publicity...

     

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  34.  
    identicon
    G, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 12:20pm

    As another "Superior Mind" once said....

    WINNING!

     

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  35.  
    identicon
    DogBreath, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 12:24pm

    Re: Re: I'd be afraid to have him as my lawyer

    We might never know. One day he could be.

    Martin Sheen has been arrested 66 times. That’s real winning.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  36.  
    icon
    harbingerofdoom (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 12:28pm

    Re: Re:

    you should see what happens when he gets near a #2 pencil

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  37.  
    icon
    BW (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 12:32pm

    Re: Thank you

    On the contrary,

    I like his way of thinking. Clearly a case can be made on anything, and he has just gotten himself a whole bunch of free publicity. Remember, it's better to be infamous than unknown.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  38.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 2:06pm

    "creative and cutting-edge legal strategies,"

    That right there is how crookes are born.

    This guy is broken psychologically, he has no emotional.

     

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  39.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 2:22pm

    And the moral of the story is, if you're a hell of a lot smarter than the jackasses you work for, you won't get anywhere telling them that. Took me a few years to get that lesson repeatedly beaten into me before I stopped fighting; he learned it in a couple of months. I hope for his sake that he remembers the lesson.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  40.  
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    Any Mouse (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 5:00pm

    Re: Do it yourself...

    He did. It says so in the article.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  41.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 7:29pm

    Re: Thank you

    This is typical lawyer behavior. If anything, his ridiculous behavior makes for a good lawyer. Good lawyers know how to make a mountain out of a molehill.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  42.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 7:40pm

    Re: Re: Thank you

    If anything, this helps illustrate the problems with our legal system. The penalties for filing frivolous lawsuits are minor, but the rewards could be huge. So filing frivolous lawsuits is often desirable.

    It's sorta like a twisted lottery, except the odds are often stacked in favor of the villain. This is especially true for those who sue for infringement, the villain being the plaintiff and the victims being those who infringe, despite the fact that there is absolutely nothing morally wrong with infringing. There is something morally wrong with preventing others from infringing.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  43.  
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    Chargone (profile), Aug 19th, 2011 @ 7:42pm

    Re: Re: If he's willing to sue an employer, he's a bad risk.

    or possibly to either side of that, but neither zero nor infinite.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  44.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Aug 19th, 2011 @ 8:42pm

    Re: Re: Re: Thank you

    If you think about it, the incentive structure indirectly makes it favorable for judges to rule in favor of plaintiffs. This will encourage more people to file lawsuits, knowing that they have a decent chance of winning, and this helps keep judges employed and in demand, which helps them get paid more and it encourages the legal system to hire more judges, who also want to keep their jobs as well.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  45.  
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    Bnesaladur (profile), Aug 21st, 2011 @ 9:00pm

    Mike is "curious which thing people think will damage his reputation more. Getting fired by a big law firm... or then turning around suing that firm for $77 million?"

    I'm more curious how a first year law associate figures that, as a result of getting himself fired by insulting management, he is owed $2.55 million in lost income while he would only be making, at best, $90k/year.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  46.  
    identicon
    youwiz, Aug 21st, 2011 @ 11:07pm

    Re:

    "Wasn't there a time when being a lawyer was an honorable thing?"

    No.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  47.  
    identicon
    BigDogRMF, Aug 22nd, 2011 @ 10:09am

    Re: Do it yourself...

    He did. Dog save us all!

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  48.  
    identicon
    Felicia, Aug 24th, 2011 @ 11:01pm

    Re: Re: If he's willing to sue an employer, he's a bad risk.

    His chances are poor. The big firm can afford to litigate this for years. It's a publicity stunt to fund his new firm. He WAS paid severance, so with that $$ & his big brain, finding a new job should have been simple.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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