Biglaw, Layoffs, Weirdness

Nationwide Layoff Watch: What’s Going On At O’Melveny & Myers?

O'Melveny Myers LLP logo Above the Law blog.jpgSomething weird, that’s what. We are not prepared to declare associate layoffs (because we try to be cautious about making such calls). But odd things are afoot at OMM, and the environment is one of Kremlin-esque anxiety and paranoia.
We contacted O’Melveny & Myers last week, to see if they had any comment on rumors of associate layoffs. They never got back to us. So this report does not reflect any information provided by the firm itself.
(Other firms that have been the subject of layoff rumors have been more cooperative, opening their kimonos and persuading us of the falsity of the layoff rumors about them. OMM did not avail itself of this opportunity.)
Although O’Melveny had no official comment, we did hear from people who are at OMM or who know people over there. The (admittedly unhelpful) upshot: nobody seems to know what’s going on; the firm is keeping people in the dark.
Read the full report, after the jump.

The rumors started surfacing in comments on this site. Here’s one representative comment, which appeared in one of the Cadwalader layoff threads:

OMM had layoffs which was not only hush hush to the outside world but inside the firm as well. NO ONE in the firm has acknowledged that layoffs took place and an inordinate amount of associates didn’t get bonuses and/or got bad reviews.

Like last time when NY had layoffs, some layoffs were blamed on performance but most negative performance reviews were decidedly trumped up. People who were stuck on doc review all year were castigated for not writing (this was chronicled on here the last time); people who spent a lot of hours on a particular case and did a good job overall were surprised to find some small assignment given major play on and negatively reviewed. Just awful treatment of associates.

Many were given to March 15th to leave. The total in NY is about 15 were told to leave and many other suffered “constructive” discharge: denied bonuses or promotion due to negative reviews that were purposely slanted to result in a bad review (in other words, don’t let the door hit you in the butt).

The DC office suffered similar offenses but we can’t find out the numbers.

Not only isn’t anyone talking to ATL but no one in O’Melveny is telling US what is going on.

We had an ACAC meeting [on January 9] and the partners were told morale was bad. They’re probably happy to hear that hoping we’ll all leave.

Very poor form.

And here’s a second, subsequent comment:

[Dismissals cast as performance-based are] happening at OMM — bar has gotten higher and you will get axed for performance if you aren’t careful (even in lit, which is where my experience lies). I think you need to be established sub-par (6 months plus of poor hours + not so great performance). But be careful all… times they are a changin’.

The foregoing comments were posted anonymously, without confirmation that they actually come from O’Melveny associates. We reached out to our OMM sources. From a tipster in New York:

“We can’t confirm anything because the firm has not put anything in writing or on the intranet or in voicemail. There is clearly an effort being made to keep associates in the dark. However, most associates believe that 15 people were given until March to find a job, a few were outright canned right before Christmas, and there was an unusual number of bad job performance reviews with most of the associates thinking that there was a BIG effort to skew performances in order to not give bonuses and promotions. Several associates who received bad reviews compared notes and the reasoning on the reviews was baffling. Many bad reviews simply made no sense but were just an excuse to not give bonuses and to not allow an associate to go forward in their career. Associates are calling it a constructive discharge.”

“But the environment at OMM is so secretive and paranoid that NO ONE will talk out loud, even at the associates’ meeting. [Last week] we had an associates’ meeting which was a joke. Someone HAD TO ASK about the slowdown in work and only then were we told that the partners are aware that ‘morale is low’ and people don’t have work. The useless associate/counsel committee was not offering that information if no one had asked. No one asked about layoffs but everyone talked about ‘what do you know?’ after the meeting. So even our associates’ committee is not being forthcoming.”

“The environment is really terrible and what was once a good place to work has become negative and no one knows who to trust or what to do. The firm’s lack of candor is making everything worse.”

“So I think that is what is going on but who ever knows. We have only rumor and innuendo. Sorry I can’t tell you more.”

From a second New York source:

“We’ve been trying to piece together a bunch of different rumors, but most of the info has come from ATL. If anything’s happening, I think it might be on the litigation side.”

From an O’Melveny associate on the West Coast:

“One of my better friends at OMM CA was let go. According to him, it was [cast as] a performance issue. He was a junior associate in litigation. Not sure if this constitutes a lay off, but if others report the same thing happening elsewhere in OMM CA, perhaps it is. Either way, people are very paranoid.”

And from an ex-O’Melveny associate:

“[I used to work at OMM] and attempted to confirm this rumor through several friends that still work there. Each of them responded with a “no comment.” I found this strange… these are pretty good friends. They must be fearful that their email is being screened (this was never really much of a concern when I worked there), or, they must’ve been explicitly instructed to keep quiet. Anyway, I think you should definitely seek input on this matter through your site.”

If you know anything more specific, please email us. If you don’t want to email us, for fear that your email is being monitored, you can also contact us via Facebook message, telephone (land line or mobile), or AOL instant messenger. Our full contact info appears in our Facebook profile. Thanks.

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