Alston & Bird

Shanetta Cutlar

On Friday, we broke the news that Shanetta Cutlar will be stepping down as head of the Special Litigation Section (“SPL”), in the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. This news was met with rejoicing in some quarters; Cutlar was not universally loved as a boss.

Much of our past coverage of Shanetta Cutlar has been somewhat negative (reflecting what we’ve heard from our sources). But there are some dissenting opinions — and we’re happy to present one to you today.

After our Friday report, we heard from Robert Driscoll, a former Justice Department official who is now a partner in the Washington office of Alston & Bird. During his time at the DOJ, he worked with Cutlar — and was very impressed by her work as an attorney. Driscoll told us:

I was a deputy assistant attorney general in the Civil Rights Division from 2001-2003. In that position, I played a part in Shanetta getting the post as Chief. Whatever her strengths or weakness as a manager may have been (and I had heard she could be mercurial), I never doubted that she was a talented and extremely dedicated lawyer. Indeed, it was these characteristics that caused us to appoint Shanetta as Chief. She certainly was not placed in that position for having any conservative credentials.

More warm words for Shanetta Cutlar, after the jump.

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alston bird logo.JPGSometimes you have to love Biglaw. Back in March, we reported that Alston & Bird was quietly forcing out secretaries and administrative staff. Our sources report that this approach to staff cuts has been ongoing at the firm. A&B is either letting people know they have a limited amount of time to find a new job or encouraging them to take early retirement.
But that doesn’t mean the firm can’t have a party to celebrate those who have been shoved out of the door. A tipster reports:

Apparently demanding that the staff take early retirement is not enough for the “worker-friendly” Alston & Bird. To rub salt in these early (involuntary) retirees, A&B is throwing them a party! Because nothing says “Fortune 500 Best Place to Work” like a party… for people you effectively fired.

Nice. Check out the party invite after the jump.

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alston bird logo.JPGFirms everywhere are trying to keep expenses down. For secretaries and administrative assistants at Alston & Bird, this means that overtime is going to be a lot harder to come by. Last week, A&B informed its secretaries of changes in the firm’s overtime policy:

As you know, from time to time we review our HR policies and practices to determine if they continue to meet the needs of the firm and our employees. In our continuing effort to hold the line on expenses and minimize our overtime costs, the firm has made the decision to revise our overtime policy for our professional staff, secretaries, and paralegals. After review of our current policy, we found that there were two areas that were outdated and not consistent with what the law allows and what other professional service firms are doing. As a result, we have made two changes to our policy.

Alston & Bird just happened to figure out that its overtime policy was inconsistent with the law? Well, I’m glad the firm — the law firm — is clearing that up.
We’ll take a look at the legal inconsistency after the jump.

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alston bird logo.JPGThe contest of horror between the class of 2009 and the class of 2010 rages on. Based on Friday’s no offer thread, you’d think that the class of 2010 was surging ahead. We know 3L recruiting is depressed this year, so if you got no offered from your summer firm, your chances of snagging a job upon graduation seem greatly reduced.
But there are still scads of people from the class of 2009 that are desperately hoping that they will be able to start at some point. We have been covering the new spate of deferral extensions. Usually, the extensions try to comfort incoming associates that they will have a job with their firms at some point.
But lately, firms are being more forward with the class of 2009. Last week, Baker & McKenzie warned that if it was not able to find spots for incoming associates by June 2010, “the relationship will end.”
Today, Alston & Bird incoming associates received some bad news. A tipster reports:

Alston Bird just indefinitely deferred its incoming 2009 class … They were supposed to start January 2010. There is now no start date.

Alston & Bird didn’t immediately respond to our request for comment.
So, if 3L recruiting is bad this year, how is it going for 4Ls 2009 graduates who haven’t had a day of work so far? Is there anything their former law schools can do to help them out?
We’ll probably see more deferral extensions as the January 2010 start date looms large at firms that do not have enough work to go around.
Earlier: Baker & McKenzie: For Some, Deferral Extensions Could Lead to Offer Revocation

alston bird logo.JPGSummer associates with Alston & Bird in 2009 are starting to get a little anxious. We know that so far, none of you have received offers. But that is going to change. Alston & Bird will make offers to some people. The firm is just still trying to figure out how many offers to extend. This email was sent from Alston & Bird to its summers on Friday:

Hi everyone –
Just wanted to give you a quick update regarding the timing of offers. You may recall that we’re coordinating our decisions as a Firm this year rather than by office (though offers will be office specific). Unfortunately, not all of our offices are ready with their decisions and as a result, we won’t be able to communicate our decisions this week. We apologize for the delay, and assure you that we will be in touch as soon as possible. Please don’t hesitate to give me a call if you need anything. Many thanks.

One tipster doesn’t think Alston is wondering what its summers need:

She knows what we need…f****** job offers. Hate to say it, but this is definitely bringing the morale of the summer class down. Also seems really sketchy–there are rumors they were interviewing 3L’s. Wonder if that is what the delay is about?

Patience dear 3Ls, patience. Morale is irrelevant. Stick to your 3L interviewing schedule. Alston will get back to you when it is ready.
Earlier: Nationwide Salary Cut Watch: Alston & Bird Makes ‘Temporary’ Cuts
Prior ATL coverage of No Offers

comparing.jpgWe’re now into the back half of the brand new Vault law firm rankings. Just like last year, we worry about a proliferation of “TTT” accusations in the comment threads. But such terms of art can miss the positives of many of the firms in this section of the Vault rankings. Here’s the list:

51. Fulbright & Jaworski
52. Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati
53. Morgan Lewis & Bockius
54. McDermott Will & Emery
55. Alston & Bird
56. Bingham McCutchen
57. Fish & Richardson
58. Dechert
59. Greenberg Traurig
60. Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft

We have already extensively talked about the Morgan Lewis situation. Let’s move on to other firms after the jump.

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Salary Cuts.jpgYou almost have to respect the extent to which some firms will torture the plain meaning of things to make bad news seem like no big deal. On that scale, Alston & Bird is one of the masters.
Alston & Bird associates were informed today that the firm is cutting salaries by $5,000 for all associates. But A&B wants you to know that it is a “temporary” salary decrease! It only applies through the end of 2009. Isn’t that nice?
Do you think salaries will automatically rebound at the start of 2010? If so, you haven’t been following along with Alston & Bird.
Let’s check out some recent history after the jump.

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California expansion love.jpgThe National Law Journal reports that eight firms have opened up offices in Los Angeles during the recession. Is this really going to work? We’ve already established that the San Francisco legal market is about as relevant as an aging hippie. Are we sure that L.A. is the promised land?

According to the NLJ, firms have been capitalizing on the glut of available lawyers in California:

To do so, many firms, such as Snell & Wilmer, Atlanta’s Alston & Bird, Philadelphia’s Blank Rome and Lathrop & Gage of Kansas City, Mo., took the opportunity to snag lawyers who recently became available, largely due to dissolutions and economic conditions.

Let’s see, Blank Rome just laid off 79 people. Alston & Bird has been conducting stealth layoffs.

And just last week, Above the Law received some new information about Snell & Wilmer. Details after the jump.

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pay freeze salary freeze pay cut law firm.jpgAs we noted in yesterday’s Morning Docket, even the New York Times has taken note of the salary freeze trend at law firms. The Times reached out to Above The Law’s own David Lat for the story:

Although many associates are angry about the freezes, others are relieved, said David Lat, founding editor of AboveTheLaw.com, a blog about law firms and the profession.

“There is this sense that firms didn’t act prudently during the boom and now they are getting religion, and that it’s better late than never,” Mr. Lat said. “Many associates we have spoken to think the freeze probably saved jobs.”

At the beginning of the month, we did a round-up of firms that have frozen 2009 salary rates at 2008 levels. That list was 16 firms long. Since then, quite a few other firms have announced freezes. Due to frequent requests, we’re updating the round-up list since the number of firms with freezes (that we know of) has more than doubled, to 33 32. Check out the as-comprehensive-as-we-can-make-it list, after the jump.

Recently announced salary freezes include “solid ice freezes” at Blank Rome and Townsend and Townsend and Crew; and “Slurpee freezes” at Bingham McCutchen, Fish & Richardson, and Texan firm Andrews Kurth.

Memorandums, as well as a new list of all firms with “solid ice” and “Slurpee” freezes, after the jump.

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Happy workers.JPGFortune has released its annual list of the top 100 companies to work for. Despite the general feeling of malaise in the legal industry, a few law firms made the cut.

The highest ranked law firm (number 21 overall) is Arnold & Porter. Fortune reports:

Law firm offers world-class benefits to staff and attorneys: 18 weeks’ paid leave for maternity and adoption, $5,000 for adoption fees, $30,000 for fertility services, free onsite fitness center, on- and off-site child care.

I guess a salary freeze that their peer firms in the Vault 20 are largely avoiding doesn’t trump a free gym.

Fortune also released a list of the top 20 companies that are great places to work and still hiring. No law firms made that list.

So I guess we’ll focus on other law firms in the top 100 after the jump.

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