A Philadelphia attorney and LGBT advocate claims that his former big-law firm smeared and terminated him after he hosted an event for Philly-area LGBT attorneys.
Alfred W. Zaher, an intellectual property lawyer who once represented Facebook is suing his former firm, Blank Rome, where he was a partner. He alleges that the firm's chairman had taken issue with his work for LGBT acceptance in the legal profession, along with his dress and mannerisms. Zaher (photo, right) is a board member of the National LGBT Bar Association.
Zaher's complaint, Zaher v. Blank Rome, was sealed by the court at some point last week. However, The Legal Intelligencer apparently got a read on it before it vanished. They served-up Zaher's story on how his firing allegedly went down.
Here's the gist of the Legal Intelligencer's story.
In the spring of 2014, Blank Rome Attorney Timothy Pecsenye and another (unnamed) associate executed what Zaher's complaint refers to as a "nefarious plan" to steal Zaher's book of clients worth more than $2 million in annual billings.
The two attorneys allegedly began to tell Zaher's clients — behind his back, of course — that Zaher would soon leave the firm due to "ethical issues." Then, they requested an email confirmation from those clients, that they were "discharging" Zaher as their attorney.
Upon learning of this, Zaher retained counsel who sent Blank Rome a plan that would've allowed Zaher to transition to another firm — and to notify his clients of the pending transfer. Very late that night, Zaher received a strange email from Blank Rome's General Counsel. Zaher would be officially terminated the next day. No explanations were given, other than the firm had "lost confidence" in him.
In the sealed complaint, Zaher alleges that Blank Rome Chairman Alan Hoffman had personal issues with him — and, in an anti-gay way. The Legal Intelligencer published this allegation from the complaint:
"More specifically, based upon his apparent disdain for Zaher's open advocacy for gay rights in the legal community, Hoffman often made unfounded and disrespectful comments in open meetings of firm attorneys disparaging Zaher's mannerisms and dress, and Hoffman displayed strong discontent and disapproval when Zaher organized and held a meeting of approximately 70 LGBT Philadelphia attorneys at the firm's Philadelphia offices."
When asked for comment, a Blank Rome spokesperson sent The New Civil Rights Movement a statement that the firm will "defend itself vigorously" while also characterizing Zaher's allegations as "baseless."
Their statement trumpeted the firm's HRC Corporate Equality Score of 100 percent, and it said that Blank Rome is proud to have achieved that score under the leadership of Alan Hoffman.
Zaher has since joined the firm Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney, though he alleges that he lost three clients due to the smearing at Blank Rome. He seeks remuneration for monetary loss, damages due to emotional distress, and punitive damages.
Zaher married Tom Buckley, his partner of 33 years, in May 2014 shortly following his termination from Blank Rome.