By all accounts, Mary Yelenick had a stellar career at Chadbourne & Parke, the New York law firm where she spent 35 years, rising to the position of chairwoman for the product-liability practice.
She retired in December to words of praise from the firm.
But in March she joined a lawsuit brought by a colleague, Kerrie Campbell, that accused the firm of sex discrimination and pay inequity. Yelenick’s change of heart followed a letter.
Within weeks of Campbell’s lawsuit in August, Chadbourne circulated a letter disavowing its claims. Fourteen female partners signed the letter, which criticized the description of the firm as “patriarchal” and urged that the lawsuit be withdrawn.
Female law partners on average earn about one-third, or about $300,000, less annually than their male colleagues, according to a survey of 2,100 partners at law firms nationwide released last fall by a legal search firm, Major, Lindsey & Africa. Over several years, that adds up quickly to $1 million or more in lost compensation for a female lawyer.