Field Fisher faces age claim by IP partner

Field Fisher Waterhouse partner John Olsen is taking his own firm to an employment tribunal, alleging age discrimination and bullying behaviour.

Field Fisher Waterhouse (FFW) partner John Olsen is taking his own firm to an employment tribunal, alleging age discrimination and bullying behaviour.

Olsen, who joined the firm in 1999 from SJ Berwin to become trademarks head, has called on the firm’s management to expel IP and Europe chief Mark Abell.

The date of the hearing is as yet not known, but The Lawyer understands that the two parties have instructed external counsel.

Jo Keddie, head of employment at City firm Dawsons, is representing FFW. Mishcon de Reya is acting for Olsen.

Keddie has experience in claims of this nature, and was part of the team that advised Peter Bloxham on his age discrimination case against Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer last year. Bloxham failed in his claim against Freshfields, but the case was seen as a landmark on age discrimination in the City.

According to an internal complaint document seen by The Lawyer, Olsen claims that Abell “sought to destroy me and my practice at the firm”.

Olsen claims that he was marginalised because of his age – 60 – and that Abell restructured the trademark and brands protection group in a way that undermined his position at the firm.

He also accuses Abell of “verbally abusing” him in a meeting, alleging that Abell called him “pig ignorant” 17 times during one encounter.

The 19-page grievance reveals that FFW partners over the age of 50 have to update the firm annually on their retirement plans and that the firm’s partnership agreement includes a clause that can be used to force out any partner at age 62.

It also reveals that Abell is the only partner on five “A” equity points – even more than managing partner Moira Gilmour – and that the firm has carried out a U-turn on its US strategy.

The document claims that the FFW board approved an exclusive alliance with US firm Fish & Richardson earlier this year, changing a long-term strategy of retaining multiple US relationship firms.

According to The Lawyer UK 200, FFW’s equity spread went from £300,000 to £1m this year. The mid-size firm has showed one of the biggest growth rates in the top 50, increasing revenues from £52.1m to £88m in three years.

Both sides declined to comment.