Last week, The Lawyer reported that Hale and Dorr had launched an astonishing law suit against a former secretary demanding the repayment of £750. The claim is understood to have been signed personally by Joe Pillman, the new head of Hale and Dorr's European offices. The papers were served by the Oxford office of the firm, formerly known as Brobeck Hale and Dorr, on the former secretary after she was mistakenly overpaid. She left the firm in December after a period of sick leave.
Jessica Learmond-Criqui, employment partner, Altheimer & Gray
“Technically speaking, a refusal to pay back a genuine overpayment could amount to theft – and this being a criminal offence, the employer has the option of reporting the employee to the police. Of course, in the case of Hale and Dorr, we have no idea whether the secretary was ever reported, or indeed whether the firm had or has any intention of reporting her. Ultimately, the decision of whether to pursue the matter or to let it go, for any employer, is always a judgement call. It is not appropriate for us to comment on Hale and Dorr's decision to proceed in this way as the judgement call is a matter for them.”
The London office head of a large US firm
“There must be some facts involved in this to which we are not privy, because my general reaction is that this is one huge waste of time. Everything has a cost/benefit analysis and just the negative public relations resulting from articles printed about this in The Lawyer would be enough to convince me to ask nicely for the money to be returned, but if it wasn't immediately forthcoming, to chalk it all up to experience.”
Partner at a magic circle firm
“This just shows that some firms are still not aware of the negative PR consequences of their actions. Even if they recover the £750, they will have been taken to the cleaners by the press for being petty and greedy.”