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?