Rachel Clarke alleges that she was victimised when an associate in the pensions team at Hammonds, the first of the three firms, after supporting a colleague Michael Caesar, who is now her partner, in an internal inquiry into an alleged incident of racism against him.
Although the details of the incident have not been disclosed, an employment tribunal claim of racial harassment and unfair dismissal followed, which was settled out of court for £20,000 in May 2002.
After giving notice of resignation in November 2002 and leaving Hammonds in February 2003, Clarke joined Pinsents in Birmingham until January 2004. She then joined Newcastle firm Dickinsons, which she left in August 2004.
Clarke originally issued separate proceedings against all three firms, which were consolidated into a single case at pre-trial hearings in February and April 2006. The firms refused to comment, but a Hammonds statement read: "We can confirm that Rachel Clarke worked for the firm between 1997 and 2003 and brought proceedings against the firm and her two subsequent employers.
"We are defending the claims, which we believe to be wholly misconceived."