Provost Umphrey opposes arbitration, except when it doesn't

By The Record | May 8, 2018

You can't blame plumbers for not liking drain cleaners. The handy, easy-to-use household product doesn't make plumbers superfluous, but it does reduce the need for their services. 

There'll be times when the job's too big, but there'll be lots of other times when a good drain cleaner will do the trick and and the plumber won't be called.

That's how lawyers feel about arbitration. Sure, it works, sometimes, and is a lot less expensive, but what happens when you're not satisfied with the results? Then, you regret not getting a lawyer involved.

That's the pitch, but the real concern is that arbitration for settlement of disputes limits opportunities for attorneys to intercede in those disputes and earn fees.

Wouldn't you think they could look beyond self-interest and acknowledge the benefits of arbitration? Nah.

There is one exception to the otherwise blanket rejection of arbitration: relations with their employees and clients. That's a whole different situation. One of those sui generis situations.

Lawyers argue that arbitration is a really bad idea and everyone should avoid it – except for law firms that might have to deal with disgruntled employees or clients. Then it makes perfect sense, because otherwise the firms would have to waste a lot of time and money going to court to defend themselves. 

That's why the otherwise-consistently-opposed-to-arbitration partners at Provost Umphrey ask their employees and clients to sign arbitration agreements.

When an employee filed a discrimination charge against the firm with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, PU responded with a demand for arbitration, but the former employee filed a lawsuit instead, in Jefferson County District Court.

“The hypocrisy of the firm’s demand that its employees sign a purported contract that contains an arbitration clause shocks the conscious,” the suit asserts. (Presumably, the plaintiff and her attorney meant “conscience,” not “conscious.”)

PU may be accused of hypocrisy, but that's no crime, and the plaintiff voluntarily agreed to the terms of her employment contract, which prescribed arbitration. Lots of lawyer fees for all involved in this courtroom bound exercise of tortured logic. 

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