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I’m a third year associate (in M&A) at one of the firms that is offering a voluntary severance package to those associates willing to take it. As you guys reported, there are layoffs in store anyway, but the firm will not divulge the amount of severance they will be paying for those who they are planning to lay off. My hours are as high as they can be given the work available and I don’t have any sense one way or another from the partners if they’re planning to can me. Do you have an opinion on whether I should take the voluntary severance?
Dead Man Walking
Dear Dead Man Walking,
For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume you’re referring to Pillsbury’s lofty-sounding Voluntary Departure Plan. Somewhere along the line it appears that Pillsbury got confused as to whether it was asking associates for their necks or running an elite Masonic Lodge, because under the terms of the program, you can’t just tell Pillsbury that you’ll take their three months offer and scram. Instead, interested attorneys must “express interest” and then “state their desire to be included,” by rapping thrice on the door to HR and uttering the phrase: “A Man, A Plan, A Canal: Panama.” High-ranking firm members will then confirm or nullify the applications for membership.
No doubt your firm believes that giving associates a
illusory “choice” is a glorious act of munificence, but the choice they’re posing is really no different than those posed by the Inquisitors to the Cathars or by the English to William Wallace: convert or be killed, confess or die, quit or be fired. If you take the buyout, you might not have been fired otherwise. If you don’t take the buyout, you may be fired anyway and get less severance. And the worst possible scenario: you may apply for the buyout, GET REJECTED, and then have to explain to colleagues that that you were fired from being fired.
Based on the limited facts, I would take the money and run. Third-years in corporate are like lambs for the slaughter. Plus, this whole ridiculous “program” sounds like a convenient excuse to provide garbage severance to laid off associates under the guise of “but we offered you a buyout!”
Only you know all the factors: your work quality, your hours, your horoscope. In the words of Anton Chigurh, “You need to call it. I can’t call it for you. It wouldn’t be fair.”
Elie plays the role of Marius Pontmercy in tonight’s performance, after the jump.
Do not take the buyout.
Look, everybody knows what the firm is trying to do. Now, it’s just about who has the guts to stand up and make it as hard as possible for them to fire you.
So “now, what are you prepared to do?”
You might not win, but you should make them look you in the eyes and pull the trigger. They will have to strike you down in cold blood and get their white shoes messy.
You fight and you fight and when all hope is lost you fight some more. If you are going to go down, you’re going to go down standing on your feet. You’re going to go down knowing in body and soul that you did everything you possibly could to hang on to your job.
Why? Because it’s not about this job anymore. It’s about the next job, and the one after that. It’s about learning how to stand tall during unreasonable circumstances. It’s about learning to digest the size of the hole in your chest.
And let that be your legacy.
When the fall is all that is left, it matters a great deal,
If you want to feel like a hero, don some rags and listen to Les Miserables on CD; don’t turn down a buyout because it’s the “noble” thing to do. Enough people have been mauled by lions or burned at the stake that there is little room left in the pantheon of saints for law firm associates who refuse severance packages. True, history reveres martyrs, but the annoying thing about martyrdom is that you can only reap the benefits after you’re dead.