Update: Dechert CEO Winokur Indirectly Responds to ATL

Dechert logo.JPGApparently, Dechert Chairman and CEO Bart Winokur still finds Above the Law not worth his time, but that hasn’t stopped him from talking about our information elsewhere.

Winokur spoke with the WSJ Law Blog to try to clear up some things about the firm:

1. Quite apart from any characterization as to reasons why associates might have been asked to leave and contrary to anonymous posts in, there were not 10, let alone 30, associates who were asked to leave in July with or without deadline.

2. Contrary to the implication in The Legal Intelligencer article, I do not believe that we are replacing “people with better people.” To clarify what I said to The Legal Intelligencer, as associates get more senior, they need to keep doing higher and higher levels of work, and not work that can be done by their juniors.

3. Additionally, in response to the slowdown in our structured finance practice, rather than lay-off associates, we assigned associates to full-time pro bono work, where they could continue to hone their legal skills while at the same time helping others. When the economy stabilizes and business picks up, it is our expectation that they will be part of the firm’s vibrant practices.

Parsing the language after the jump.

1. Sounds like Winokur is clearly stating that no associates were laid off or “stealthily” laid-off in July. It would have been nice if he told that to us when we asked him before we published our piece, but what are you going to do? We’ve spoken with people who directly contradict the chairman. Perhaps after the paychecks stop coming in October, additional associates will reveal themselves … if they truly exist.

2. I don’t know how you mis-characterize “replacing people with better people,” but there you go. Apparently, Winokur didn’t mean “better” so much as he meant “cheaper.” Make of that what you will.

3. Pro-bono sabbaticals do exist. And they are a good thing! “When the economy stabilizes and business picks up, it is our expectation that they will be part of the firm’s vibrant practices.”

Bart Winokur Dechert.jpgWell, what happens if the economy doesn’t stabilize? What happens if business doesn’t pick up? I’m fairly certain that the full-time, pro-bono associates would like to know just how long they have before “honing legal skills” turns into “updating legal resumes.” Why won’t Mr. Winokur tell his own people how long they have? I’m sure they’d like to know before they make holiday plans.


The real point here is this: Winokur can talk to some publications, ignore others, and accuse whoever he wants of twisting his words, but the only people he is responsible for are Dechert employees and they are the ones he is leaving in the dark. Protecting a public image can’t possibly be more important than giving people an honest assessment of their futures with the firm.

Winokur might think he is playing a savvy public relations game, but people’s careers are at stake. The smartest PR move is to have your employees feel they are treated fairly and with respect.

Big hat tips to Slater and the WSJ Law Blog team, Passarella at the Intelligencer, and the ATL commenters. You have to love it when everybody calls “bull$**t” at the same time.

Dechert Chairman Responds to Layoff Stories {WSJ Law Blog]

Dechert Chairman: Layoff Rumors Are ‘Bull’ []

Earlier: Dechert: Inside The Black Box

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