In a move that can best be described as cheap, Latham & Watkins joins a growing list of firms that will not allow associates to accrue vacation time. Why would a firm deny its associates the opportunity to get paid out for unused vacation days when they leave the firm (voluntarily or involuntarily)? Because it saves them money, of course.
I suppose Latham could have put it this way: “We’ll no longer honor accrued vacation time because we don’t want to be on the hook for extra paychecks after we s***can you.” But where’s the fun in that? Instead Latham tried to sell associates on the idea that its change in vacation policy would allow associates to take unlimited vacation days.
Latham associates weren’t fooled by the memo. Check it out and see if you would have fallen under the spell of spin …
The memo on the new vacation policy starts off as if Latham is respecting its associates as adults:
Use your own judgment. It really sounds like something an adult professional should be able to do. Just balance your own vacation needs with the needs of the clients and your colleagues.
But the real point of the memo is buried at the bottom — in a parenthetical, no less:
Did you catch that? Starting May 1, vacation accrual is a thing of the past.
Now at some firms that might not be such a big deal. It would affect people moving out for new jobs — but at the point where you have a new exciting option, it’s a little bit easier to swallow getting robbed of your unused vacation.
But Latham has a, shall we say “history” of scaling up when times are good and mercilessly cutting when times get rough. Imagine you’re working at Latham, you know the knives are out so you are afraid of taking any vacation whatsoever. Despite your best efforts, you get laid off anyway. Thanks to this policy, the firm now gets to keep your vacation pay that you were too terrified to use.
Not that an extra three weeks of pay means anything to a recently laid off lawyer, right?
Obviously, Latham tipsters were not impressed:
They are promoting it as a flexible policy that needs to be implemented as people don’t really log vacation time correctly. What the policy does is removes a guaranteed entitlement to three weeks paid leave each year.
More importantly, some tipsters wondered if Latham was setting up another round of layoffs:
Given that no associate will ever want to ask for more than 15 days off during busy times, it seems like the firm found a great way to wipe a huge expense from their books.
Last year they froze salaries just before huge layoffs, which lowered severance cost substantially. Is this a similar strategy in advance of partner track decisions this summer or year-end reviews next January?
It’s too early to tell whether or not this change is merely cheap or actively sinister. But when you work at Latham, you already know that the management is going to run over associate concerns when there is the opportunity for the firm to make more money. A move like this can’t come as a huge surprise to Latham associates.
If you don’t like it, you can always leave. Just make sure you use every last second of your vacation time before you jump ship.