Some of you might think we have a strange obsession with Quinn Emanuel around here. That’s really not the case; it’s just that, for whatever reason, we have a lot of tipsters over there. It seems that QE associates love to talk about their firm, for good or ill.
Today, for good. From a source at the firm who is quite content:
John Quinn gave his annual State of the Firm address today and I think he really did a great job addressing the bonus fiasco. In a section of the address where he mentioned things the firm has to work on (which included an honest list of wide ranging topics), he mentioned that the partners have to do a better job of communicating the bonus system. After first noting that, historically, bonuses are awarded differently every year, he stated that the partners will provide a detailed list sometime in the middle of the year of what hours will be required, and what types of hours will apply in what amounts. He said that the amount of the bonus will stay open (of course), but the partners do believe this will help prevent future dissatisfaction. He also mentioned that the firm’s leadership did something “stupid” with the lateral hires by using the wrong denominator in calculating their special bonus. (You might not remember, but there were complaints that laterals were cheated out of an extra month of hours due to the discrepancy between QE’s fiscal year and the calendar year.) Quinn stated that they will recalculate hours and distribute special bonuses based on that recalculation.
More after the jump.
Our tipster continues:
Some of your readers will crow and say this is the result of public shaming on your site. I disagree. What was lost in the previous hysterics (on both sides of the fence) is that QE’s partnership is extremely accessible. Every year, in this same Address, Quinn answers questions posed by associates and partners. The only time he refuses to answer questions is when they would require a response that goes against the firm’s policy of promoting cooperation and teamwork among the offices. (A question like that was refused this year, and Quinn explained why he wouldn’t answer it.) Making about faces in policy and admitting screw ups is part of QE’s culture, and John Quinn’s response to the reaction from associates helps prove that.
I think the reason you saw some real zealotry for QE’s defense in the comments to your previous bonus thread is that some here feel that people are too quick to read ill motives into the QE partnership’s decisions despite sometimes overwhelming evidence to the contrary. What really came through in Quinn’s speech is that he and the other partners, by and large, are very proud of this firm. They are proud of its quality, they are proud of its growth, and they are proud to be different. They are proud that they can attract top flight trial talent and, consequently, try to treat their associates well. Of course there are exceptions to every rule, but I can say from personal experience that partner-associate relationships here work on a more personal level than at other top litigation shops.
What yesterday’s call and comments from partners indicate is that the firm is finally realizing they are no longer a small litigation boutique in downtown Los Angeles. One of the things QE has always prided itself on is its informality. You see it in their advertising, in their recruiting and in the way the firm is administered. But now, with more than 350 attorneys (per Quinn’s count yesterday), there are some informal approaches that must necessarily give. Bonuses seem to be one of them. By giving associates a goal, the firm can protect itself from being viewed as anti-associate and partner-greedy. This transparency is wonderful, but I think that it will also come at some cost. QE is not the type of place to reward dead wood. Some of your commenters noted that other big shops will pay the big bonus no matter how many hours one worked in the year. QE is not about that. It is about teamwork, about everyone pulling their own load. You saw some of that in the angry reactions by QE associates who think the partners treat us well. I am almost positive the partners will not set a low goal like 1800 hours simply because I do not think they want to incentivize associates towards mediocrity.
QE’s strength is its adaptability. Do they screw up? Absolutely. But what business ever gets everything right? Associates (and potential associates) should know that the partners prefer open and honest communication. This comes from the top down, and I know it for a fact because I speak directly with the partners when I have problems with the firm. So far, I have never been brushed off.
If you post this, I am sure many people will call me an apologist for the firm. I can’t prevent them from doing that, so I won’t even try. What I will say is that there needs to be more reasoned debate about this firm. There is a reason QE has grown so amazingly over the past several years, and that is because it is different. It has shaken things up in the legal world, both on the business and employment level. I won’t deny they are experiencing growing pains, but Quinn himself (it seems) is dedicated to making the transition to a large firm while retaining what makes QE different. If associates wish to help in this process, they need to take more than just pot shots at the partnership. On the flip side, we also cannot just accept missteps in the name of higher PPPs.
I’ll be honest, I like my job. And Quinn’s openness yesterday is one of the main reasons. Sorry for going on so long, but I hope this helps give some perspective on how QE handled what was obvious associate dissatisfaction.
We thank our tipster for these thoughts. We do strive to be fair and balanced here at ATL (up to a point; this not the New York Times or Wall Street Journal, and we reserve the right to inject our personal opinions into matters large and small). The foregoing nicely balances out some of the anti-QE sentiments that have been voiced in prior coverage.
Earlier: News that Quinn Emanuel Associates Are Sure To Love