Nationwide Layoff Watch: O’Melveny & Myers ‘Denies Bad Times’

O'Melveny Myers LLP logo Above the Law blog.jpgWe previously reported on rumors of associate layoffs at O’Melveny & Myers. We’ve conducted some further investigation, and it’s pretty clear to us that OMM is doing more than just performance-based pruning.
We’ll issue a more detailed report sometime soon, perhaps early next week. If you have information to share, please email us (from your home computer, just to be on the safe side; see here).
For the time being, we’ll stick to discussion of what has been reported elsewhere. The firm has never responded to our many requests for comment (and we’re no longer going to bother trying to contact them; guys, you know where to reach us). But OMM did speak earlier this week to

The managing partner of O’Melveny & Myers’ New York office denies that the credit crunch has precipitated the layoffs of up to 15 associates.

O’Melveny tax partner and New York head Brad Okun confirms that a number of associates are leaving, but insists that the exits are all based on individual performance and are a result of O’Melveny’s annual associate appraisal process.

“Every year we re-evaluate our associates and counsel to see how they’re performing,” Okun says. “Every year some fall below our expectations and therefore some are asked to leave. This year is no different from other years.”

One of our OMM sources disagrees: “Complete baloney.”
And a source who spoke to The Lawyer also begs to differ. Read more, after the jump.

Still from

[A] source close to the firm says there has been “a downsizing” in New York.

“The firm’s taking the opportunity of not being absolutely flat-out and there being less work around to do a little house-cleaning,” he says.

The associates who are leaving are believed to work in O’Melveny’s private equity, Latin America and general corporate groups. They are thought to have been given until 15 March to depart.

After discussing some internal reshuffling at O’Melveny, the article gets to what we’ve been told was the critical cultural shift for OMM in New York: the firm’s merger with O’Sullivan LLP.

“O’Sullivan was a scorched earth place,” remembers one Manhattan recruiter. “It was a very aggressive firm. The traditional O’Melveny was a bit gentler.”

It seems to us that the old or “legacy” O’Melveny side and the new O’Sullivan side engaged in a struggle for the soul of OMM-NY, and O’Sullivan prevailed. The retooled O’Melveny-New York is a lean, mean, billing machine, trying to play with the big boys in Gotham and snag the most high-end legal work.
That transformation apparently requires getting rid of lawyers that the partnership perceives as dead weight. Cue the “performance-based departures.”
Finally, a quick addendum on the rumor that O’Melveny was trying to hunt down ATL leakers and commenters. First, check out this Legal Week article from late last month, entitled “O’Melveny says sorry for missing emails.” Quips a tipster:

If OMM “lost” over 700,000 emails it was supposed to turn over in bankruptcy litigation, how does it expect to find the tipsters’ emails to ATL in the proverbial haystack?

Maybe the firm was so preoccupied sifting its own emails for “traitors” that it dropped the ball in bankruptcy court?

Second, a source at the firm reports that at a recent meeting, the OMM powers-that-be addressed the witch-hunt scuttlebutt:

They actually denied the ATL witch hunt allegations. It kind of cracks me up that they even addressed them at all, but they did, and said that the story was inaccurate.

We agree with our tipster. This is getting a bit silly. OMM needs to make up its mind: either ignore ATL completely, or talk to us directly. Firms have used both PR strategies successfully. But OMM’s half-assed approach — blowing off our inquiries, while discussing them internally (and incessantly) — makes the firm look ridiculous.
O’Melveny denies bad times [The Lawyer]
O’Melveny says sorry for missing emails [Legal Week]
Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of O’Melveny & Myers

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