According to rumor, the law firm of Jenner & Block — one of the largest and most prominent shops that hasn’t raised starting salaries to $160K yet — is holding a big associates’ meeting today. We’re following up with our sources and will keep you posted. If you have info to share, please email us (subject line: “Jenner and Block”).
Recently we wrote about the partner demotions at Jenner. In that post, we promised you a later post “focused on the plight of associates rather than partners.” Now we deliver on that promise (although perhaps this information will be superseded soon by the meeting).
Get the scuttlebutt on Jenner, after the jump.
This report has been complied from information supplied by multiple Jenner & Block associates. We’re keeping them all anonymous, which is our standard procedure around here.
For starters: interestingly enough, not everyone at Jenner is dying for a pay raise:
There has been a ton of internal discussion among associates here because a lot of us don’t want a raise if it means increased billables or hours pressure. We like that when the firm says the billable requirement is 2000 hours, they actually mean it.
As you know, our friends at other firms have similar hours listed as the supposed requirement, but there is serious pressure to work far more than the listed number. Here, 2000 means 2000. So that, in large part, is what the delay is about — partners have gotten very ambiguous or even negative reactions from associates about the raise because we don’t want the culture to change.
It’s probably inevitable [that we'll raise] because law students don’t understand those kinds of subtle differences between firms, and the firm won’t want to lose out in recruiting. But from the perspective of a lot of associates here, that’s unfortunate.
Other Jenner sources, however, blamed the firm’s failure to raise on some less-than-positive factors — and had some other negative things to add. We reprint the allegations below, with responses from other Jenner sources after each point.
We also sent these allegations to Gregory Gallopoulos, Jenner’s managing partner, and Darryl Van Duch, the firm’s public relations manager. We were ignored. So the responses below come from Jenner associates.
Allegation #1: The firm recently fired nearly twenty partners, in a move similar to Mayer Brown’s recent trimming of its partnership ranks. Some of these partners were fairly senior; some were recent laterals.
Ed. note: The fact of the de-equitizations was subsequently confirmed by the National Law Journal. We heard the rumors, and inquired into their accuracy, before the news broke.
Response to Allegation #1: A source cited to this comment (posted in a prior Jenner thread):
Jenner has been undertaking a restructuring of sorts for the past couple of years to increase PPP. The first major move was to go from a single, all-equity partnership to a two-tiered partnership made up of salaried, non-equity partners (years 8-10) and full-equity partners who make the cut by proving they can generate business. The second major move was to rectify the underperforming 1:1 associate-to-partner ratio by de-equitizing partners with little business.
And had this to add:
The second item mentioned in that comment happened back in early May. Roughly 15 partners were given 12 months to leave the partnership. If you’d polled the associates beforehand to see which partners they thought would go based on generating no business, being very one-dimensional, never bothering to meet hours, etc., the list would have been damn near identical to the actual list of partners asked to leave. Here’s hoping it makes the partnership stronger, I guess.
Allegation #2: The firm’s litigation department is very, very slow. Some associates have been fired for not billing enough.In fact, Jenner has been suffering from a dearth of billable work since the beginning of the year. Some associates are 500 hours under for the year because they just can’t get their hands on any work.
Response to Allegation #2: From one source:
“Things are a little slow in litigation. Many of my friends are one or two hundred hours behind, but last year we were ridiculously busy, so we expect things will even out again. I for one am happy to slow down and catch up on sleep.”
And a different source:
“[In my office and practice area] we are incredibly busy – so busy that we have had to bring in a bunch of associates [from another office] to help out and are, very soon, bringing on a bunch of new hires (both laterals and fall hires).”
As for the “firings”:
“To my knowledge, four associates have been given a few months to find new positions (also in early May or before), although it wasn’t just for hours-related reasons. At least three of them had royally screwed up (and I don’t know what their hours were), and the 4th may or may not have screwed up (I have no idea), but is a very, very odd bird with few people skills and was WAY behind on [hours]. Definitely no surprise to the associates that the 4th was asked to leave — we all thought it was only a matter of time.”
Allegation #3: In light of this lack of work, nobody has any idea what the firm is going to do with 70 summer associates and how it will keep them busy.
Response to Allegation #3:
“I don’t really have any idea what we did with our
summers last year when we were swamped. I can’t say I’ve ever given it much thought, especially from my experience as a summer, which taught me that nothing much is ever expected of summers!”
Allegation #4: Speaking of summer associates, the firm’s dinner policy has been revised to prohibit paying for alcohol on a summer tab.
Response to Allegation #4:
“News to me! I know we’re generally expected not to take summers drinking over lunch (tempting though it is), but from what I’ve seen, alcohol is alive and well at summer and other firm events (such as the weekly Friday happy hour).”
Another response (different source): “I’m not aware of any changes to the summer associate policy. I haven’t seen any email or memo, and we did have drinks at the last dinner I was at. I don’t know where that rumor is coming from.”