Former Covington & Burling staff attorney Yolanda Young has hired a new lawyer to represent her in the discrimination suit against her old firm.
Latif Doman of Doman Davis, a small litigation and employment discrimination firm with offices in New York and Washington, will take the reins on the case which has caused a stir in D.C. legal circles. Young, who is black, submitted a 37-page complaint in February accusing Covington of fostering a racially hostile work environment. Among her accusations, she claimed colleagues had read out loud from a list of racial slurs, and that she had been called a “monkey.”
Young filed her complaint pro se after first leaking word to the press that she would be represented by David Wachtel of Bernabei & Wachtel. In an interview, she says she switched to Doman because she “felt more comfortable” with him.
“David is a wonderful attorney, but Mr. Doman is really passionate about the case, and this is a case that I think warrants having that kind of passion,” she says.
Young says she handled the complaint herself in order to save money, but that Doman will handle the case from now on.
In the meantime, Covington seems to be settling on a hardball strategy for dealing with the suit. Last week it released a lengthy response to her complaint, in which it portrayed her as a dilletantish, marginally qualified attorney who never understood the nature of her job.
One of Young’s more incendiary accusations against Covington is that the firm used its staff attorney program to recruit minority lawyers, then systematically denied them the chance to rise into the associate ranks. She published a controversial essay on the topic for the Huffington Post titled “Law Firm Segregation Reminiscent of Jim Crow.”
Covington’s response tries to hammer home the point that staff attorneys were generally less qualified lawyers whose only job was to handle electronic document review. It then proceeds to use Young herself as an example, using an August 14 letter to the EEOC in which the firm first responded to her discrimination claims.
“Ms. Young is an African-American whose publicly-stated career interests focus on the media; she has published a book, appeared as a ‘talking head’ on TV and written commentary for newspapers and blogs,” the letter states. “Ms. Young graduated from Georgetown University Law Center in 1995. Her average grade was only slightly better than a ‘C,’ well below the threshold level for a Covington associate. She did not pass the bar until 1998, three years after her law school graduation.”
Young disputes that it took her three years to pass the bar, though its records show that she was admitted in 1998. Otherwise, she adds, “Covington can say what they like now, but they hired me.”