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Law360 Q&A with Kenneth Kelly

Kenneth Kelly, Chair of the firm's national Litigation Steering Committee, in the New York office, was featured in a Q&A. (Read the full version — subscription required.)

Following is an excerpt:

Q: What is the most challenging case you have worked on and what made it challenging?

A: Patrowich v. Chemical Bank included two appellate decisions in the early 1980s holding that (a) the managers and officers of large corporations were not personally liable for discrimination claims under the New York Human Rights Law unless they formulated personal policy and not merely carried it out (N.Y. Court of Appeals); and (b) a bank's employee handbook, standing alone, did not constitute a contract of employment (Appellate Division).

The issues were challenging since, at the time, the principle of employment at will was being "eroded" in decision after decision across the country, and very few decisions in New York had squarely addressed these issues. Several states' highest courts had held directly opposite to the positions we were arguing, and expanding liability for discrimination was the trend. The fact that I had recently joined the bank's legal department and handled the appeals of novel and high visibility issues without outside counsel was a high-pressure situation.