Saturday, December 26, 2009

Akin Gump: High Standards and Dubious Employment Practices!

In the year 2004 the law firm of Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld terminated the employment of Senior Counsel, Donald G. Gross, Esq., alleging there was a "lack of fit" between Mr. Gross and other firm attorneys; and, according to Mr. Gross, citing the fact that he was "too senior." Mr. Gross was about 51 years old when he was fired. Akin Gump also alleged that Mr. Gross's writing skills were subpar. Mr. Gross subsequently filed a discrimination complaint against Akin Gump, his former employer, alleging age discrimination. In 2009, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia granted Akin Gump's motion for summary judgment.

When Dennis M. Race, Esq. terminated my employment with Akin Gump on October 29, 1991 he told me that there was a "lack of fit" between me and other firm personnel. Although I was not told that I was too old to be employed as a paralegal, in fact, I was 37 years old when I was fired: older than most, if not all, of the firm's legal assistants and litigation support personnel.

Also, in the year 1991, the country was in the midst of an economic recession. On the afternoon of Friday April 5, 1991 Malcolm Lassman, the management partner in charge of legal assistants, held a meeting of all legal assistants and litigation support employees. Malcolm Lassman said that the firm was doing everything it could to retain staff, but that the firm was experiencing the effects of the recession. Specifically, he said the firm was having a problem with some clients not paying their bills. The firm was, in fact, laying off personnel which had triggered rumors among the legal assistants -- rumors that Malcolm Lassman attempted to dispel. Oddly enough, it was on Monday April 8, 1991 that I was moved from a group office on the ninth floor of the firm (where I had worked since October 1989: a year and a half) to the litigation suppport suite in firm's basement (Terrace Level). It was in the Terrace Level office that I faced severe harassment.

As of the date of my termination (October 1991) I was earning $30,000 per year. My starting salary of $26,000 (June 1988) was already higher than other starting paralegals because, it was explained to me, I had prior experience. In March 1990 I was demoted from the paralegal group (under Maggie Sinnott) to the litigation support group (under Chris Robertson); presumably, I was earning significantly more than other litigation support personnel when I was fired.

Is it possible that my job termination in October 1991 was really a layoff motivated by economic considerations, disguised as a job termination? Is there a rational reason why an employer would take such a course of action against an overcompensated employee who has filed a harassment complaint with his employer?

Back to Donald G. Gross. Here is Mr. Gross's resume. On paper, Mr. Gross's credentials appear to be competitive with other Akin Gump attorneys -- but then, Akin Gump has high standards:

Donald G. Gross serves as Counselor of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency (ACDA). He currently advises the Director of ACDA on a broad range of arms control and nonproliferation matters, including negotiations to conclude a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, arms control with Russia and regional arms control initiatives. Mr. Gross develops and implements diplomatic strategy for ACDA and coordinates the agency's China Task Force. He serves as a principal representative of the Director to the National Security Council and other national security agencies in the formulation and execution of arms control policy. Mr. Gross was a member of the U.S. Delegation to the 1995 Nonproliferation Treaty Review Conference which successfully achieved indefinite extension of the NPT.

Prior to joining ACDA, Mr. Gross was Director of Legislative Affairs at the National Security Council, where he coordinated the legislative activities of the State Department, Defense Department, White House and CIA on key foreign and defense policy issues. Mr. Gross graduated magna cum laude from Cornell University and holds a law degree from the University of Chicago.

Here is a nonlegal writing sample of Mr. Gross's:

Hyping North Korea's nuclear threat

By Donald G. Gross -- May 26, 2009

North Korea derives satisfaction from international condemnation. Time for a more nuanced approach.

Let's be honest: North Korea's nuclear test on Sunday does not, as U.S. President Barack Obama put it, "pose a grave threat to the peace and stability of the world" much beyond the threat that North Korea posed on Saturday -- the day before it conducted the test. And hyping the test, as Obama did in his White House statement, actually makes matters worse.

To understand why, think back to your schoolyard days. The bullies who tried to rule the playground became more powerful if their victims grew upset. This time, North Korea is the menace, and the strong U.S. rhetoric only brings satisfaction to that country's misguided leadership. Raising the stakes increases Pyongyang's diplomatic leverage and makes it even harder to eliminate North Korea's nuclear program. The United States is giving this bully exactly what it craves.

North Korea has had a proven nuclear weapons capability since October 2006, when it carried out its first nuclear test. Back then, U.S. intelligence estimated that Pyongyang possessed enough nuclear material to build six to eight nuclear bombs. North Korea has not added to its nuclear stockpile since its first test, thanks to the hard-nosed diplomacy pursued in the second Bush term through Amb. Christopher Hill, who persuaded Pyongyang to disable its reactor at Yongbyon.

It is understandable that some Obama advisors would like the young president to appear tough and resolute. But one of the lessons the Bush administration learned, after difficult years of dealing with North Korea, is to respond to Pyongyang's brinkmanship with calm and quiet determination. This is the one diplomatic approach most likely to give pause to Kim Jong Il and his generals -- and the Obama administration would do well to give it a try.

The greater the threat North Korea appears to pose, the more satisfaction it gives that country's leadership and the more diplomatic leverage it confers on the cabal in Pyongyang. They see nuclear weapons as a way to compensate for the country's severe economic failure, extreme poverty, and inability to feed its own citizens. The sad truth is that the people of North Korea are the foremost victims of their leaders' nuclear policies.

Let's imagine what might happen if, instead of showing patient disapproval, the Obama administration gets drawn into a game of chicken with Pyongyang. Signaling that a U.S. military response is "on the table" would merely further North Korea's strategy of brinkmanship. Threatening bombing or a naval blockade could well be a self-fulfilling prophecy -- if it becomes necessary to act to preserve U.S. "credibility."

But making good on military threats wouldn't work, in any case. After talking with his security advisors, President Obama will discover, if he hasn't already, that the United States does not have any good military options for eliminating North Korea's nuclear program. Quite the contrary: U.S. military action could trigger war on the Korean peninsula, putting at serious risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of South Koreans, not to mention American troops.

What to do?

Energizing the Six Party nuclear talks and pursuing vigorous bilateral diplomacy to advance a creative negotiated settlement with North Korea is not just the best option, it is also the only real way to preserve stability in Northeast Asia -- the shared goal of the United States and its closest allies in the region, Japan and South Korea, as well as China and Russia.

Rallying the U.N. Security Council to condemn Pyongyang is a necessary step, but going down the road of simply isolating and imposing further sanctions on North Korea will not achieve the results the U.S. seeks. Pressure on North Korea needs to be coupled with other diplomatic measures that strengthen Pyongyang's sense of security (independent of nuclear weapons) and help reverse its economic decline.

To persuade North Korea to give up its nuclear capability, the United States and the international community must take away that country's best weapon: fear. Through careful calculation and skillful diplomacy, the world can overcome the menace by proving that Pyongyang's desire for security, respect and economic growth are best achieved through other, less hostile means.

Donald G. Gross is former counselor of the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. He currently serves as adjunct fellow of Pacific Forum CSIS, a research institute affiliated with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

1 comment:

Gary Freedman said...

Apparently, the Justice Department found the case of Mr. Gross interesting. DOJ logged onto my blog post about Mr. Gross on Dec. 24, 2009:

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City-- Washington
ISP -- Us Dept Of Justice
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