Magic circle firm Clifford Chance is gearing up to contest a race discrimination case brought against it in New York.
Former associate Caroline Memnon, who is Haitian, is suing the firm for $75m (£37.5m), claiming that because of her colour she was never given any meaningful work, despite receiving a $125,000 salary.
In a suit filed in New York Southern District Court, Memnon is claiming that the firm used her as window dressing ;because ;of her race, fired her for complaining about it, then blacklisted her in the New York law community.
She claims that Clifford Chance, then known as Clifford Chance Rogers & Wells, fired her in 2002 then went about having her surreptitiously ostracised from the New York legal community.
According to the lawsuit, Memnon was offered jobs at Chadbourne & Parke and Manatt Phelps & Phillips, only ;for ;the ;offers ;to subsequently be withdrawn.
Memnon said that, by the end of 2006, she had turned to smaller firms in her quest to find work, believing they would have less contact with Clifford Chance. She was hired by Sullivan & Worcester’s New York office in February 2007, only to have her contract terminated the following month. Sullivan & Worcester is named as co-defendant in the case.
A ;Clifford ;Chance spokeswoman said the firm believes the claim is without merit and will be contesting it. Sullivan & Worcester does not comment on pending litigation.
Last year The Lawyer reported that Clifford Chance settled a sexual orientation claim brought by former competition partner Michael Bryceland (20 August 2007). The claim was filed in November 2006, but was withdrawn in April last year before making it to a full hearing.