Last fall, senior partners at Kaplan Hecker & Fink, a New York law firm known for championing liberal causes, made a fateful decision: They were going to sideline their hard-charging and crusading founder, Roberta A. Kaplan.

The reign of one of the country’s most prominent lawyers was coming to an end.

Ms. Kaplan was already famous when she founded her law firm in 2017, having won a landmark Supreme Court case that paved the way for marriage equality for gay Americans. The firm soon gained…

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