Last Monday, we reported that Milbank laid off 89 people. Milbank did not respond to our requests for comment for that story, but when one tipster asked firm management how many people were laid off from the firm, the tipster was told to “check the blogs.”
We take our responsibility on that front seriously, and so we have some additional information to report. In our initial report, we said that first years were not laid off by Milbank. Apparently, that statement was in error. We have since received numerous reports from sources claiming that first years were in fact laid off last Monday. Many of those reports were from laid off first years. this report is exemplary of many we received:
Screw you MysTTTal. Milbank did lay-off first years. At least 10 firm wide. Take the hot comb out of your hair and do some real reporting.
Once again, I’m a guy. And I only put natural juices and berries in my hair.
Another laid off first year reports:
The firm did in fact give us 3 months severance but today’s news came as a major shock and seem to have been prompted by the arrival of summer associates this coming Monday.
Laying off first years is one thing. But did Milbank also lay off a pregnant woman on maternity leave? Somebody cue up the Shinyung Oh music, after the jump.
We received multiple reports that a female associate who was in the middle of her maternity leave was among the 49 associates fired from Milbank last week. One tipster puts it this way:
[A] previously well-respected fifth year female litigation associate [was included] in last week’s “lay offs.” Previously, that is, before she became pregnant. Her career at Milbank ended abruptly last week when they decided to terminate her in the middle of her maternity leave.
The situation brings up old and negative memories for Milbank. Six years ago, the firm got hit in the American Lawyer for its treatment of pregnant women. Here’s a bit of the 2003 article:
Michelle Quist Mumford, who left her third-year associate spot at Milbank in April, says her career nose-dived the moment she announced her pregnancy last year. It didn’t help, she notes, that she was the first pregnant associate in litigation, and that there are no women partners in the department’s New York office. To make matters worse, Mumford had to take time off because of a difficult first trimester. Though the litigation partners “were outwardly supportive,” she says, “they didn’t give me work; they took me off almost every big case.” Instead, she says, she was stuck doing document reviews. Being a pregnant second-year associate at Milbank, she reports, was “akin to [being] a leper in a public square — ignored, shunned, rejected.”
Things didn’t improve after her pregnancy. After a four-month maternity leave, Mumford returned part time to Milbank in March. Again, she says, partners gave her no work: “I kept telling them I needed work, but got nothing.” First-years, she claims, were given more responsibility. So after five weeks of frustration — “I sat there all day surfing the Internet” — she resigned. But the real kicker, she adds, was that no one from Milbank’s much-touted diversity committee ever contacted her.
A current Milbank associate had this to say about the situation:
Milbank has maintained that all of its “lay offs” were based on the global economic downturn and lack of work. But in reality, Milbank did not — could not have — simply picked names out of a hat. Each decision had to be at least partially based on billable hours, performance, and length of time at the firm. So what exactly was the problem with the fifth year on maternity leave? Had she not billed enough in the labor and delivery room? Had she not billed enough in her third trimester, when partners were unlikely to be staffing her on new projects? Or did everyone suddenly find her performance sub-par — after five years at the firm — the moment she became pregnant? Obviously, none of these alternatives is acceptable.
Mibank did not respond to our request for comment about this decision.
This isn’t exactly the kind of Mother’s Day story one would hope to see. Not only does it look bad to fire an expectant mother during the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, it’s also a chilling message to send to the other female associates at the firm. Does the firm really want to send a message that people shouldn’t get pregnant for fear of losing their job?
Are female associates feeling increased pressure to mothball the baby factory until the economic crisis passes? Take our poll below.