Cravath Swaine Moore LLP logo small.JPGAs the partner announcements (or lack thereof) trickle in, I keep thinking back to the line about partnership in the Simpson Thacher documents that we published earlier this month:

We are going to need to continue to be extremely circumspect in making new partners … In an environment in which net income is falling and the point is falling, point dilution compounds the negative impact.

The sentiment is so perfectly focused on the ultimate bottom line. Effort, talent, commitment, paying your dues? Bah! When the chips are down and people are getting squeezed, “point dilution compounds the negative impact.” It’s a business, don’t let anybody tell you otherwise.
So really, I’m not at all surprised about the latest news coming out of Cravath. Am Law Daily reports:

And now the year’s grand finale: Cravath, Swaine & Moore has just confirmed that it will be making no new partners. That’s right: Zero.
It’s always been notoriously hard to break into the partnership at Cravath, but we can’t remember the last time the firm completely nailed shut the doors to its innermost sanctum (nor could Cravath, or at least the firm declined to say). The firm made three partners in both 2007 and 2008. Could it be that the economic meltdown has hit Cravath harder than other firms?

Of course, according to Cravath, these high level business concerns didn’t play a part in the firm’s decision to not make any new partners. Instead, it appears that everybody that was up for partner this year just kind of stunk.
Details after the jump.

The recession rolls on, this year’s bonus was half of what it was last year, but Cravath wants you to believe that economic factors didn’t play a role in its partnership decisions. Instead, the firm would rather say that all of its senior level associates kind of suck:

Allen Parker, Cravath’s deputy presiding partner, says the economy is not to blame for the absence of new partners this year. “For our firm, whether to make someone a partner is a thirty-year decision,” he says, noting that Cravath’s remains a single-tier partnership. “We never let the decision be influenced by short-term economic considerations.”
In fact, says one senior Cravath partner, the firm is on an upswing, with business picking up 10 percent this year. Finance, M&A, and litigation all report an uptick, this partner says.
The reason Cravath didn’t elevate anyone this year, says this partner, is that the pickings were slim: “We want to make partners even in bad economic times. But this year, no one met our standards.” The same source says that very few–less than a handful–of the 80 associates that started in the law school class of 2002 (the class up for partnership this year) remain at the firm at all; some promising associates went into investment banking when the going was hot. In sum, no associate was put up or had the expectation of being anointed partner.

So Cravath’s superstars got out while the going was good, and all the ones who are left are chopped liver? Imagine being a senior associate at Cravath and trying to generate business in a crappy economy after that ringing “no one met our standards” endorsement from the firm.
We already know that the classes of 2009, 2010, and 2011 picked a terrible time to go to law school. But people in the classes of 2002 and 2001 who wanted to make partner don’t have the best timing either.
And Then There Were None [Am Law Daily]
Earlier: New Partner Watch: The Jones Day 36
New Partner Watch: No Partnership for You!
More Internal Documents from Simpson Thacher

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82 thoughts on “Cravath: Zero Associates Worthy of Partnership

  1. No Job 3L says:

    Haha, glad I don’t work at TTTravath

  2. guest says:

    Willkie also made zero new partners.

  3. guest says:

    This story is not true.

  4. guest says:

    They’ve allowed me into the sanctum of their ass.

  5. Affirmative Walrus says:

    “Effort, talent, commitment, paying your dues? Bah!”
    As you can see, I’ve had enough. It’s time for AG Holder and Tom Perez, head of the Justice Department’s civil-rights division, to break out the big guns: disparate impact claims for partnership.
    There’s nothing a little quota system can’t solve. Cravath doesn’t want to add partners? Fine. We’ll just sue them and force them to comply with “the people’s will” in the name of raci-, er, social justice.

  6. guest says:

    My condolences to the passed-over associates. I don’t know any of them; maybe they’re all douches. But to be publicly thrown under the bus like that is simply unconscionable.

  7. guest says:

    Fu*k feeling sorry for the senior associates’ failure to make partner. They had to know their chances were slim with only 3 new partners each year anyway, it was the risk they took staying with a firm like cravath for 7 years. They should have found a lateral opportunity after investing 3-5 years of paychecks.

  8. guest says:

    what is TTT?

  9. guest says:

    Recently elevated DLA Piper partner who has averaged only 21000 hrs/yr drives new celebratory Bentley by Worldwide Plaza with the windows down screaming out ENJOY CRAVATH!

  10. guest says:

    TTT means Top Tier Talent.

  11. guest says:

    If that’s not a hint for those senior associates to hit the road, I don’t know what is.

  12. guest says:

    This isn’t surprising. Cravath has been having serious problems for the past two years. Most first through fifth year associates, depending on their rotation and what partner they are assigned to, are at 60% of the hours they should be at, if not less. Moral is exceptionally low, and there is talk of several key partners leaving for greener pastures after the new year.

  13. guest says:

    I might be wrong here but to reach 21000 hours per year wouldn’t said associate need some sort of device to slow time and would not said device be worth more being sold to the public than the partnership payout at DLA?

  14. guest says:


  15. guest says:

    Just another reminder that Fordham is tied with Alabama in the US News Rankings

  16. guest says:

    So Cravath says to clients:
    The good guys all left the firm. So the guys I have been billing you $500/hr really kind of suck. Sorry about that.

  17. guest says:

    I’m so glad I left this firm to go into investment banking!!!! (only to get laid off 10 months ago)

  18. guest says:

    I thought this might be the case as there was no announcement on CSM’s news site, and there usually is by mid-November.
    Quite honestly, if you haven’t gotten “the nod” a few years before you’re up at CSM, you’re not really in the running. And, they made A LOT of partners in the past few years. Even way back in 2002, they made more than zero partners, although there have been years where corporate makes many more partners than Lit.
    Veeeery interesting.

  19. guest says:

    Cravath now wipes Skadden’s filthy asses. Here is your baby wipe, Mr. Chesler.
    Skadden Secure

  20. guest says:

    Wow. To not make any partners is one thing (bad), but to publicly flagelate the senior ranks of associates is just plain unconscionable.
    I hope every Cravath client that paid for an eighth year associate’s time this year demands a big ass refund in light of this. I’d love to hear a partner squirm and justify the eighth year’s rate but at the same time say that the same associate did not meet Cravath’s standards for advancement.

  21. guest says:

    “We want to make partners even in bad economic times. But this year, no one met our standards.”
    Translation, “Clients, we don’t consider those associates you pay $450 an hour good enough to get a piece of our profits.”

  22. guest says:

    Why feel at all sorry for the rejected? They’ve been making bank for 7-9 years, have acquired excellent experience they can take elsewhere, and have a very prestigious name on their resumes.

  23. guest says:

    The message is clear: Our associates suck, if you must hire Cravath for institutional or other reasons, only partners should be allowed on your matters – associates who have not “met our standards” would be a terrible be a waste of money and a risk there’s no reason to take.

  24. guest says:

    I didn’t think there was anyone in the class of 2002 left at CSM. Wouldn’t it be interesting to read a website that made a quick phone call to find out the number?

  25. Frank Reynolds says:

    Cravath senior associates are good in a tight spot. They’ll make it work.

  26. guest says:

    Business is up 10%.
    We cut your bonuses anyway.
    Swallow it and smile.
    — cravath partner

  27. guest says:

    Did layoffs hit the class of 2002?

  28. guest says:

    Does Cravath have any black partners? I don’t think so. That place is so racist.

  29. guest says:

    15 – I, too, find that hilarious. Every New Yorker’s dream is to be tied in something with the great state of Alabama.

  30. guest says:

    And now he’s dressing like Santa Claus….A very sordid busines….
    Randolph Duke
    Duke & Duke Secure

  31. guest says:

    Yeah, Cravath is racist. I am a black guy and I went to NC Central Law and they didn’t even write me back when I sent my resume up there.

  32. guest says:

    This is a non-story if there weren’t any attorneys left from the 2002 class.

  33. guest says:


  34. guest says:

    All I want for Christmas is an Above the Law website without Elie fisting his left wing agenda down everyone’s throats.

  35. guest says:

    I didn’t make no partner b/c a big name partner type dude came in my office and I was in there sucking a big pickle. I like to suck the juice on big pickles but it kind of looked like I was sucking a @$%#. they of course got mad. so racist.

  36. guest says:

    very prestigious

  37. guest says:

    I am soooooooooooo from the Jersey Shore. I have a huge bulge in my pants. It is throbbing.
    The Bone Err

  38. guest says:

    I am very Italiano. Never call your exgirlfriend when you’re drunk.
    – The Situation

  39. guest says:

    Yo, Elie. Class of 2000 is up at a lot of firms this year. So they’re getting f-ed too.

  40. Ronnie From Jersey says:

    You are obviously not the Situation. Stop trying to be as cool, tan, and jacked as we are.

  41. guest says:

    These senior associates definitely got passed over for economic reasons. I’m not sure why CSM would state otherwise. The overwhelming majority of CSM associates are very, very competent. So, what is CSM saying everyone they hired from the class of 2001 just happened to sub-par? Not likely.
    Even if the “best” people left to go into banking, it still wouldn’t explain the fact there were no new litigation partners. Things are slower at Cravath, particularly on the corporate side, than they would have you believe. There may have been a brief end of year pickup, but nothing to suggest business was “up ten percent”.

  42. guest says:

    3, what specifically is not true? did they promote assocs to partner this year, or is there another reason why they didn’t?

  43. Dubya says:

    Mission Accomplished!

  44. guest says:

    Hey, how about a comment post from someone with actual knowledge of some aspect of this?
    The last time CS&M made zero partners was at the end of 1992 (I was there then), and at the time Sam Butler said the same thing that C. Allen Parker said now: in essence, nobody was good enough. The economy sucked then, too, but the economy didn’t have anything to do with the lack of new partners then, either. Funny how that happens. Coincidence, I guess.

  45. guest says:

    I translate Cravath’s statement as: Our associates are only good enough to exploit while billing out at high dollar. They’re not good enough for equity in all their hard work.
    Outstanding business model.

  46. guest says:

    45 – I guess you were one of the people who didn’t make the cut.

  47. guest says:

    Affirmative Walrus, is the 10% tax on indoor tanning services racially discriminatory against white people?
    Just wondering, since I don’t want to live in a nation of cowards.

  48. guest says:

    Just a random thought, but perhaps “standards” simply means “book of business standards”. Isn’t that what it woudl be all about in this economy?

  49. guest says:

    Lawyers are fungible, at every level. Books of business are not.
    So you can focus on acquiring skills. And you can focus on acquiring clients. But if focusing largely on the former does not directly and relatively quickly lead to the latter in your field, you will likely be screwed over when promotion time comes.
    You now know enough to play the game. Good luck.

  50. guest says:

    Hey guys!

  51. guest says:

    16 & 22 – you’re lowballing the rates for 8th year associates. They bill at noticeably more than that.

  52. Affirmative Walrus says:

    Cheer up. You sir, are not a coward. Extreme race-based consciousness is the purest form of color-blindedness. If my rationale doesn’t make sense to you, then you are a racist.
    In addition, if you disagree with ObamaCare, then as Sen. Whitehouse pointed out, you are a right-wing Aryan militia man. This is especially true if you like tanning. Tanning is for white people. Ergo, it is a racist activity and the DOJ should bomb it back to the Stone Age. Or we’ll just tax it.

  53. guest says:

    Elie, do you have any sense of self-worth at all? Because if you did, you would ban Affirmative Walrus and all the other shticks which attack you.

  54. guest says:

    The idea that the senior associates who don’t make partner “suck” and that clients have been over-billed by them is ridiculous. First of all, your billing rates go UP when you’re a partner. This is saying “those people shouldn’t get to set higher billing rates because they aren’t partner worthy.” It’s not like CSM is demoting them, or saying they aren’t worthy of being senior associates.
    21, 22, 24 = logic fail
    Also, clearly the five or so 8th years knew long ago that they weren’t on partnership track. It’s not like you just figure that out when you get passed over as an 8th year.

  55. guest says:

    49 is correct, and the others are idiots. Just because you are not “partnership material” does not mean that you are not a good lawyer worth your hourly rate.
    Frankly, not being “partnership material” might be a complement. It means you are a little less of a douche.

  56. guest says:

    49 is correct, and the others are idiots. Just because you are not “partnership material” does not mean that you are not a good lawyer worth your hourly rate.
    Frankly, not being “partnership material” might be a complement. It means you are a little less of a douche.

  57. guest says:

    What this post fails to explain is that the firm generally doesn’t make a lot of partners. For example, there has not been a partner made in litigation in about 5 or 6 years. So to go from making 2 partners in corporate one year to 0 the next is not that big a deal, and to go from making 0 partners in litigation the last half of this decade to 0 this year is even less of a deal. Cravath is the hardest place to make partner, period (Wachtell actually makes a decent percentage of its senior associates partners). And if you don’t beleive me, ask the partner you work for, who likely got passed over at Cravath.

  58. guest says:

    public service message from 50 – true as the north star.

  59. guest says:

    I’m a bit older than 45, but he got it right. During my time, the track was 7 years, and the firm hated having 7 years around who were not likely to make partner. For some, who one partner was really, really pushing, they would re-consider at the end of the 8th year, although I can’t think of any one who made it that way.
    It was my experience that when they say essentially that no one in the class met their standards, the kids didn’t. They probably shouldn’t have stayed long enough to be considered. It is probably the job market behaving badly even for Cravath alum. It was my experience that Cravath makes it abundantly clear later in one’s tenure as an associate that the partners make their intentions abundantly clear.

  60. guest says:

    9 – A Bentley? Seriously? Are you an 80-year old new partner?

  61. guest says:

    The seventh years clearly stuck around too long. The firm is probably annoyed it has to deal with the awkwardness and the pr aspect.

  62. guest says:

    If one is passed over for partnership at Cravath, does that mean the attorney is not “Cravath material”?

  63. guest says:

    50 shows a complete lack of knowledge of Big Law. Small, mid-law, maybe. Unless your uncle is Warren Buffet or something, an associate’s book of business is nothing more than an inconvenience and is likely to be ignored. Firms like Cravath have institutional clients. They don’t want Bob and Carl’s Deli. They don’t want you to work on Bob and Carl’s Deli. They didn’t hire you to work on Bob and Carl’s Deli. They hired you to work for their banks, Time Warner and their heavy hitters. You build your book of business when you leave firms like these. Folks at Cravath-like firms inherit their clients– their job is to keep them.
    50 is right as it applies to small to mid-size firms, but not biglaw. Your sole purpose is to do what the partners you work for want you to do and to do it excellently.

  64. guest says:

    What has been the severity of layoffs at Cravath over the past year-and-a-half and why weren’t these squatters cut already?

  65. guest says:

    Good loyal grinders. Can’t see for looking. 80 = 0. Gotta not like that ratio.
    Show them the door. Or the window.

  66. Michael Ray Richardson says:

    The ship be sinking…

  67. guest says:

    Is there a way of attributing to Affirmative Walrus a ‘FTW’ at all times and in all posts, past, present, and future?

  68. guest says:

    This would never happen at Paul Hastings…

  69. guest says:

    @ 65 What if it’s Bob and Carl’s Wholesale Deli Supply. Am I still screwed?
    Mid level associate @ vault firm

  70. guest says:

    71, unless they’re bigger than JP Morgan/Chase, the answer is “yes”.

  71. guest says:

    72, they’re probably better capitalized than JMPC.

  72. guest says:

    73, lol. You got me on that. My point remains. That was funny.

  73. guest says:

    74 – funny.
    but 65 is right. Elie, and many of you, apparently have no idea how the elite of the elite operate. There is no client development at CSM, Debevoise, S&C, et al. They didn’t make partners because they didn’t want to slice up the pie right now. Plain and simple. Sucks to be a 2002 graduate.
    Lucky for CSM, there are a cadre of hard working, intelligent, and naive, elite law graduates who are junior associates at Cravath right now who think they THEY will be the ones to make partner because THEY, unlike the rest of these folks, are good enough. Good luck.

  74. guest says:

    One reason to do what CSM did is to prevent people from stealing their business. If a firm says that senior associates didn’t make partner because of the economy, clients might flock to that associate, at least for some portion of the work, when the associate leaves. Especially since the firm is CSM, so it is manageable for seniors to lateral as partners to other law firms.
    65, I believe you when you say that you know CSM model. You sound insidious enough. The way firms prevent Bob and Carl’s deli from becoming a client is by having two things in place: hourly fees and minimum matter dollar amounts. If B&C wants to pay a law firm, ANY firm including CSM, why would the firm turn that work down? No firm, no matter how big, turns down money. So the reason why partners want SAs working on their matters and working “perfectly” as you put it, is to keep the clients for themselves, and retain their place on the pecking order. Otherwise you risk having a revolt a la CWT circa 1990s. Only partner one would make by following your advice is a service partner. Far from the worst job in the world, but be honest about what it is.

  75. guest says:

    CSM 2002 Associate: What are you doing?
    CSM Partner: I’m gonna stick this up your ass.
    CSM 2002 Associate: But I poop from there!
    CSM Partner: Not right now, you don’t.

  76. guest says:

    59 nailed it. Cravath trains you to be a partner from the minute you arrive. Most people just end up partners at other firms.
    – Cravath alum expecting to make partner at another NYC firm, who knows his pitch is “almost as good as Cravath but a lot less expensive, and we let our associates sleep.”

  77. guest says:

    55 — NOOOOOOOO!!!! Affirmative Walrus is my favorite shtick here. Keep up the good work AW!!

  78. guest says:

    Making new partners who don’t add new business = dividing up the pie and giving yourself a smaller piece. I’m not a finance whiz or anything, but why would anyone want to do that?

  79. guest says:

    Maybe if they had treated the associates better, the good ones out of the 80 that started would have stuck around.
    Just kidding, that’s crazy talk!!!!

  80. guest says:

    There were at least the usual number of attorneys left from the 2002 class if not more than usual. Plus, many of those people are exceptionally talented. This is economics, pure and simple, and for Cravath to throw these guys under the bus is disgusting.
    Say what you will about Simpson’s announcement, but at least they were being forthcoming. This is more of the same dishonesty from Cravath, and it is especially disappointing to anyone who spent time there. First, they lied about laying people off (which they did in significant numbers and are still doing). This only made it harder for those sent packing to find a job. Next, they claim that the absence of any new partners is due to a lack of quality for those put up for the position, but that’s clearly a lie as well. A lie that makes it more difficult for those passed over to get a good job at another firm.
    The partners are openly lying to the media in a pathetic attempt to preserve the firm’s reputation. In doing so, they hurt the associates who have killed themselves for years for the partners’ benefit. This isn’t something that would have happened there a decade ago, but the new guard of partners that are now in charge lack the character and good business judgment of their predecessors. The quality of the firm is down, the quality of management is down, the mendacity is up, and the mistreatment is at an all time high.
    No wonder associates there are frustrated, scared and wishing they had chosen another firm.

  81. guest says:

    Come on! We–an intentional use of the pronoun–know who was up this year. Does anyone really think that someone who was passed over deserved to join the firm? I doubt it. But [no] thanks to the 75+ who felt competent to weigh in–highly educational. Is there a way for ATL to block paralegals/law students/people outside the firm from commenting on such threads?

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