|Adam T. Klein|
Adam T. Klein is the deputy managing partner of Outten & Golden LLP in New York City. His practice focuses on the prosecution of class actions and impact litigation of employment discrimination claims. Klein currently serves as lead or co-lead plaintiffs counsel in numerous major class action lawsuits involving discrimination claims in the financial services industry, the high-tech industry, and challenges to recruitment and hiring selection based on criminal history records and other factors, for employment decisions. At present, Klein is prosecuting lawsuits challenging employment practices at Goldman Sachs, Microsoft, Sandia, PwC and Facebook.
For numerous years, Klein has been selected as one of the Lawdragon 500 leading lawyers in America as well as Best Lawyers in America, New York’s Super Lawyers — Manhattan Edition, and as a leading lawyer in the Legal 500. Klein is the incoming co-chair of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
Q: What's the most rewarding aspect of working as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: My practice is limited to prosecuting class actions. Class actions allow us to challenge discriminatory employment policies and practices that typically are difficult to combat at the individual employee level. For example, we recently settled a class action lawsuit against the federal U.S. Census Bureau on behalf of approximately 500,000 class members. The lawsuit, filed in coordination with seven civil-rights organizations, focused on the racial impact of using criminal history records to make hiring decisions during the 2010 decennial Census. The settlement will transform how criminal history information is considered for staffing decisions for the 2020 decennial Census as well as establishing a criminal history records clearance project associated with the Cornell University ILR School and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law.
More generally, the Census Bureau settlement is an example of a “win–win” outcome that both helps class members and also improves how employers make decisions. There are a number of examples from other similar settlements with major employers such as Morgan Stanley, MetLife and Merrill Lynch. That’s a very rewarding experience.
Q: What skill do you feel is most important for achieving success as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: I bet that there are several common attributes of successful people (including plaintiffs attorneys). First, I try to improve every day — everyone can do a better job if they have a real hunger to improve and perfect their craft. Second, Outten & Golden has done a fantastic job of identifying, hiring, training and retaining excellent people to work at the firm. It is a pleasure coming to work every day to work with dedicated and talented attorneys and nonattorney professional staff. My success is largely a reflection of the people at Outten & Golden and a dedication to the work of the firm.
Q: Share an example of a case that was particularly challenging, and how you handled it.
A: The Census litigation was wildly challenging. Some context: In 2010, we filed a case on behalf of roughly 500,000 African American and Hispanic job applicants against the federal government claiming discrimination based on the use of criminal background information during the 2010 decennial Census. It turned out that the Census Bureau didn’t track race/ethnicity data for job applicants and criminal history records were only maintained in hard-copy form on rap sheets. The firm invested approximately 17,000 billable hours and well in excess of $1 million for experts and related costs to prosecute the case. Hard work and perseverance led to an excellent settlement in late 2016.
Q: What advice would you offer to young lawyers interested in practicing as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: I would tell them to think about what gets them excited to come to work every day and find that job. So much of what we do at Outten & Golden is a reflection of our firm’s culture and values. This is now even more readily apparent in our current political climate with President Donald Trump and his outward hostility towards civil rights and the rule of law.
Q: What's one thing defense attorneys don't understand about practicing as a plaintiffs attorney?
A: A common question from management attorneys relates to where we find our clients. My bet is that management attorneys spend a considerable amount of time affirmatively marketing their individual and firm practices to prospective corporate clients. However, we don’t have “beauty contests” or an ability to pitch to prospective clients in the same way. Instead, we routinely work with and support civil rights organizations and focus on issues that confront applicants and employees that are evolving concerns within the workplace.
The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or Portfolio Media Inc., or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.