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Fired first-year lawyer sues New York firm for $77 million

NEW YORK (Reuters) - A first-year attorney at a New York law firm who was fired after boasting about his "superior legal mind" and angering his colleagues has filed a $77 million lawsuit against his former employer.

Gregory Berry, a former first-year associate at Kasowitz Benson Torres & Friedman, accused the firm of unethical behavior and lying about its work culture in a lawsuit filed on Monday in Manhattan state Supreme Court.

Two partners are also named as defendants in the suit. Berry accuses them of interfering with his job, inflicting emotional distress and trying to thwart his career prospects.

Berry claims he "immediately began doing superlative work" when he started working at Kasowitz last September after attending law school at the University of Pennsylvania.

But he ran into trouble after a few months when he e-mailed partners asking for more responsibility, he said in the lawsuit.

"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," his email said, according to his complaint.

He was informed by a partner at the firm that his email had "burned bridges" in the office, and he was fired a few days later, according to the lawsuit.

"There's simply no room in a big law firm for an intelligent, creative lawyer with real-world experience, and I had to find that out the hard way," Berry told Reuters.

In the lawsuit, he also said he was fired for comments he made about "possibly fraudulent" billing practices at the firm.

Mitchell Schrage, a managing partner at Kasowitz, called the lawsuit frivolous. He said Berry got a "substantial severance payment" but had threatened to sue unless he was paid more.

Since leaving Kasowitz, Berry has gone into solo practice, he said. He is seeking $25 million in compensatory damages, about $2 million from the two partners and punitive damages of at least $50 million.

(Reporting by Jessica Dye, editing by Ellen Wulfhorst and Cynthia Johnston)

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