Major law firm settles orientation discrimination case

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

One of the best-known names in the ‘magic circle’ of law firms has settled a claim of sexual orientation discrimination.

A former partner at Clifford Chance made his claim in November. The Lawyer today reports that the firm has settled the case for an undisclosed amount of money.

It is thought to be the first ever discrimination claim against a law firm on the grounds of sexual orientation.

Clifford Chance is the largest law firm in the world, both in terms of revenue and number of lawyers.

Their headquarters are in Canary Wharf, London.

They operate in 20 countries and employ 3,800 attorneys.

In 2006 the firm registered record revenues of more than $2 billion (£1bn).

Michael Bryceland’s claim, which involved direct and indirect discrimination on the grounds of his sexual orientation, was withrdrawn in April and he left Clifford Chance soon after.

An employment partner told The Lawyer:

“This means that not only did the firm have an allegedly discriminatory culture, but specific circumstances happened where the individual felt personally discriminated against.”

Mr Bryceland’s settlement is likely to be hundreds of thousands of pounds, to compensate for loss of earnings.

The Employment Equality (Sexual Orientation) Regulations 2003 make it unlawful to discriminate against employees or prospective employees because they are gay, lesbian or bisexual.

Arpita Dutt, a partner specialising in discrimination law issues at award-winning Russell Jones Walker solicitors, told

“Our recent experience of acting for lawyers, and successfully resolving their disputes, does highlight that sexual orientation claims brought by senior lawyers and partners are on the increase.

“Such claims are usually brought on the basis of a lack of career promotion and advancement, sometimes with a backdrop of gay stereotyping and harassment, and can find a lawyer out of a job or having to move on swiftly and discreetly as a result of raising workplace issues.

“It is rare that such claims hit the headlines due to the common (and sadly, only too accurate) perception that raising issues or bringing a claim is ‘career suicide’.”