That policy governs relationships where one individual directly or indirectly supervises the other “such that the person in the superior role controls or can influence the assigning of work, reviewing, approving, auditing or otherwise participating in his or her performance evaluation, promotions or demotions, compensation, disciplinary action or termination,” according to Mintz Levin.If two such individuals develop a sexual or romantic relationship without required approval, the firm’s spokesman confirmed that one or both could be forced to leave Mintz Levin.More than a half-dozen women contacted for this story—including consultants, marketers and public relations professionals with decades of experience in Big Law, each of whom has worked at multiple firms in different areas of the country—said they doubted most firms had any policies governing personal workplace relationships between partners and staff and associates. However, some sources suggested many firms do have policies but fail to publicize or enforce them.
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Kurens estimated that the vast majority of Am Law 200 firms do have some form of policy addressing subordinate-supervisor relationships.
But even where there is a policy, several women cited the “fuzzy” nature of law firm’s hierarchy as being used to justify workplace relationships.
Others said they thought having a formal policy was beside the point.
Instead, they said it was the culture and structure of the firms that often give rise to unwanted conduct.
In interviews, legal industry insiders with experience at multiple law firms said the nature of law firm partnerships can make inappropriate behavior harder to avert or address, especially when firms don’t do enough to police relationships in the workplace.