Biglaw, Incisive Media, Munger Tolles & Olson, Rankings

The Am Law A-List Isn’t Kind to Laid Off Associates

A List American Lawyer Top Firms.jpgAmerican Lawyer has released its A-List for 2009. The rankings try to measure the qualities that make an elite law firm:

This list, which we launched in 2003, aims to measure and quantify the qualities that define an elite law firm, making an effort to look beyond profits. We examine four factors: revenue per lawyer, commitment to pro bono, diversity among lawyers, and associate training and satisfaction. Our formula gives more weight to the first two factors; we double a firm’s scores for revenue per lawyer and pro bono, and then add scores for diversity and associate satisfaction.

This year’s A-List? The elite of the elite? The top three firms are:
1. Munger, Tolles & Olson
2. Hughes Hubbard & Reed
3. Latham & Watkins
I’ll pause to give laid off Latham associates an opportunity to finish screaming. Please return after the jump.

Here’s how American Lawyer explains the inclusion of firms that have had massive layoffs:

We should note that the associate survey we use to compute satisfaction was sent out in the spring of 2008, before the waves of layoffs, deferments, and salary cuts hit The Am Law 200. After those surveys came back, four of the firms on our list–Latham & Watkins, Morrison & Foerster, Milbank, Tweed, Hadley & McCloy, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe–gave pink slips to lots of lawyers.

But according to the publication, laying off associates can make the remaining associates happier!

But as it turns out, the attorneys that are left may be happier. The preliminary results of our 2009 midlevel associates survey (which will appear in our August issue) show that Milbank and Orrick actually did better than in their prelayoff days. It could be that the remaining lawyers are very grateful to have jobs, or that layoffs swept out a lot of malcontents, or a little of both. Latham and MoFo, however, have taken hits in associate satisfaction this year.

I feel like I am taking crazy pills.
There are 20 firms on the official A-list. Can’t we find 20 firms that didn’t lay people off or cut salaries? I know we’re in the middle of a global financial meltdown. But we can’t find 20 firms that managed themselves during the good times so as to not have to lay off workers when the economy hit the wall?
Does a list like this essentially justify the aggressive layoffs undertaken by certain firms? As much as some people will emphasize that the list is based on information complied before the realities of the global recession hit home, do you think such caveats will show up in the A-List firms’ recruiting materials? I imagine that some firms on this list will say “we’re an A-List firm — despite our layoffs. We Rock,” as opposed to “we’re an A-List firm, based on information compiled before we laid off 10% of our associates.”
Maybe the 2010 A-List will give extra points for firms that are so committed to pro bono work they gave incoming associates a whole year off to work for a non-profit organization.
Power Shift [American Lawyer]
The A-List 2009 [American Lawyer] (subscription)

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