The “spring review process” at Ropes & Gray got underway this week, and early reports indicate the Boston-based firm is doing some heavy spring cleaning.
Sources tell us the firm has spoiled the Memorial Day weekends of 30 to 40 of its associates. Upon information and belief,
approximately eight first-years [Ed. note: see update below] two first-years are among those whose three-day weekends will be spent firing up laser printers instead of barbecue grills.
The departed are being told it’s for “performance reasons.” An attorney in the Boston office indicates that the firings could continue into next week:
Stealth layoffs are going on at Ropes & Gray right now. Performance reviews started this past Monday and will be continuing through next Friday.
So far, more than 10 associates, almost entirely first and second years, have been fired.Word on the street is that the layoffs are widespread, but the firm hasn’t acknowledged anything.
The firing takes place at the review itself. When associates who are getting laid-off show up for their reviews, there are two people there — the partner and HR.
People who have been laid off have 1 month to leave.No word on what kind of severance they’re getting.
The firm’s spokesman would not confirm the number let go, but says the firings are part of the “normal review process.” Ropes “understand[s] that associates who have received disappointing messages in this environment can readily interpret the reviews as layoffs,” said the spokesman, but the firm says that’s not the case, in its statement released to Above The Law this morning. Here’s an excerpt:
Ropes & Gray is completing its normal associate performance review process, just as we do twice each year in the spring and fall. Like our peers, we have an “up or out” system, so this process, as in the past, will result in the departure of some associates across all departments, primarily from the mid-level associate ranks.
The spokesman declined to confirm total number of associates fired or that first years were let go. He said that “very, very few, if any” first years were among those fired. But tipsters say otherwise.
UPDATE (1:30 P.M.): After the post went up, Ropes decided to release more information. Here’s the firm’s additional statement:
First, a total of two first-year associates received reviews resulting in the end of their employment, and the total number of first- and second-years receiving negative reviews is considerably less than 10. Second, there is no HR person in the room. These are reviews, not terminations. Third, it is not correct that “people who have been laid off have one month to leave.” The departure time is considerably more generous than that.
Full statement from the firm, and more from sources, after the jump.
One attorney said the firings did not necessarily come as a surprise. Associates were warned that “the bar would be raised during this review period.” That’s rough. It’s hard for first-years to raise the bar in this climate.
From the attorney:
Ropes is headlong into its spring review process and apparently there’s a blood-letting this week. We were already told in small groups that the bar would be raised during this review period. I’ve heard of two first years, a few second years and some fifth years being let go over the last couple days. Weird to me that you may become a less talented lawyer in poor economic times….
Everything I’ve heard has been conjecture — I’m guessing there will be no official statement and no admission that this is economic. The latest I heard this afternoon was that the grand total was 40,
including 8 first years. They are absolutely saying these are performance related, it’s under the guise of our associate review program — I think Ropes has been very careful to avoid public attorney layoffs. We’re petrified of losing our recruiting edge for those coveted HLS students.
These are the first associate firings we have reported from Ropes & Gray. Those being let go may wish they had taken the New Alternatives sabbatical option back in March.
The number we keep hearing is 30, which includes associates in years one through five. There is severance, according to the firm’s spokesman, who was unable to tell us how much.
To all who were let go, good luck. And remember that “performance-based” is a slippery term these days. Here is the statement from the firm:
ROPES & GRAY — STATEMENT — ASSOCIATE REVIEW PROCESS
Ropes & Gray is completing its normal associate performance review process, just as we do twice each year in the spring and fall. Like our peers, we have an “up or out” system, so this process, as in the past, will result in the departure of some associates across all departments, primarily from the mid-level associate ranks. Even with the departures, however, our overall attrition rate is expected to be lower this year than our historical average. Indeed, we expect that the total number of lawyers at the firm will be higher in 2009 than in 2008.
Our expected growth reflects a commitment to invest in our people so that we can meet the demands of clients when the economic environment improves. As just one aspect of our investment in our associates, we have been very pleased with the response to our NAP program. We just received our 100th application for public interest fellowships. The NAP program provides opportunities for associates to continue their professional development while contributing to organizations in need of help, and it also increases the opportunities for other associates grow professionally on client matters in what is unfortunately a time of lower aggregate demand.
Earlier: Ropes & Gray: Defers Start Dates, Offers ‘New Alternatives’ For All Associates