Or perhaps a little of both.
Lifting the hood on Wachtell Lipton is an interesting endeavor. An in-depth look at the inner workings of America’s superfirm would appeal to legal professionals and the business world alike.
But a custom repackaging of glowing reviews from associates does not a useful profile make. This Business Insider review of working at Wachtell reads like a brochure. Everything is sunshine and lollipops at 51 West 52nd Street. Double rainbows sprout from Marty Lipton’s every orifice.
While I’m sure everyone loves their handsome compensation packages, there has to be more dirt out there to balance out the sort of comments these insiders offer…
Business Insider took a look at its own name and decided to look “inside” the “business” of Wachtell Lipton. As it turns out, Business Insider lacked any inside information and opted to crib someone else’s intel, basing the entire article on reviews from Vault’s “Gold” membership site. Unfortunately, Vault reviews read like answers to the interview question, “What’s your biggest weakness?”
“We’re always expected to be working, which is never great, but it’s just a totally different mindset that people buy into. At some level, I sense that everyone wants to be here and enjoys the work they’re doing, even if there’s an overwhelming amount of it.”
We work long hours, but we love it! Yawn. A valuable profile of Wachtell requires more than a reminder that Biglaw professionals work “long hours.” We need some specifics. How many hours are we talking about? Are vacations respectfully handled? Is the workload balanced such that associates are focused on a few core deals or pulled 12 different directions at once? Anything to give some perspective to broad generalizations.
“It just can’t be beat. The partners’ willingness to show their appreciation for associates through the compensation structure is a real plus. It makes associates feel great about the hard work they do.”
They call that Battered Person Syndrome. “Yeah, I get hit with frying pans, but this gift means I’m truly loved.” It’s one thing to respect that at least hard work is getting high reward. It’s another to chalk that up to the benevolence of the partners.
Vault relies on employees returning surveys and that will always introduce some self-selection bias, but was there nothing truly negative coming out of Wachtell? These surveys read like a North Korean newspaper. Is Vault just editing out all the dirt or do Wachtell associates really love the firm that much? Because I loved Cleary, and I could still write pointed criticism of several aspects of the experience. Perhaps Wachtell really is a cult.
At this point, we’ll confess that the ATL Career Center is also bereft of Wachtell insider reports — probably because everyone is too busy to write one — but if you work at Wachtell (or anywhere else, but especially Wachtell) and have positive or negative feedback, please send it in by filling out this survey. Help your fellow legal eagles out with some specifics that can help them make informed decisions.
But this quote sums up the whole Wachtell condition:
“Partnership is realistic if you survive that long. If I leave, I know I’m leaving from the top. But working anywhere else would be a let-down at this point.”
The job is both one that has to be “survived” and one so much better than the imagined alternative that elsewhere is a “let-down.”
On second thought, maybe these reviews do give a pretty accurate picture of what it must be like to work there if you can read between the lines.
WACHTELL: Here’s What It’s Like To Work For America’s Most Grueling Law Firm [Business Insider]