A six-year employment dispute involving a law firm is finally over, after the employment tribunal ruled that it was justified in requiring an equity partner to retire at 65.

The tribunal found that, although discriminatory in respect of age, retiring someone at 65 was a proportionate means of attracting and retaining talented solicitors who otherwise might leave if their path to partnership was blocked. Imposing a retirement age for partners of 65, the tribunal ruled, struck an acceptable balance between the needs of the firm and the individual partner.

Leslie Seldon (pictured), a former civil litigation equity partner at Kent firm Clarkson Wright & Jakes, argued his case at a 2008 employment tribunal, a 2009 employment appeal tribunal, the Court of Appeal in 2010 and the Supreme Court earlier this year.

He was unsuccessful in all four hearings, with the Supreme Court completing the circle by referring the case back to the employment tribunal to decide whether an age 65 cut-off was proportionate in his case.

National firm DAC Beachcroft employment partner and head of the equality and discrimination unit Rachel Dineley said: ‘(The ruling) does not provide a carte blanche for employers to introduce their own retirement age in the absence of clear justification.

‘What will be justifiable is contingent upon the employer establishing a legitimate aim or aims and demonstrating, both with tangible evidence and the application of commonsense – but without stereotyping – that the retirement age is appropriate and reasonably necessary to achieve those aims.’