In case you missed the big news, last week Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft laid off 96 lawyers. This is, as far as we know, the largest lawyer layoff of the current economic cycle.
When combined with the January layoffs, which hit around 35 lawyers, CWT has axed upwards of 130 attorneys. This makes it “America’s firingest law firm.” (We can’t claim credit for that turn of phrase, which was coined by a tipster, but we will try to popularize it through frequent usage.)
As we reported earlier this week, résumés from Cadwalader refugees are flooding the market. But will they find a welcome reception?
Maybe not. Here’s an email that a boutique law firm in New York sent to a legal recruiter who tried to submit CWT résumés for an opening: CORRECTION: Actually, the email was sent to the recruiter UNSOLICITED, not in response to anything. It was apparently sent, out of the blue, to a group of legal recruiters.
Sent: Tuesday, August 05, 2008 To: [Legal Recruiter] Subject: FW: Resumes
Thank you for staying in touch with our firm. Please note that we are not going to be accepting resumes for Cadwalader candidates.
Duval & Stachenfeld | 300 East 42nd Street New York NY 10017
Ouch. Are Cadwalader lawyers now the Untouchables of the law-firm caste system?
Note that this slap in the face comes from Duval & Stachenfeld LLP, which is far from snobby in its hiring practices. It draws heavily from non-top-tier law schools and pays $60,000 starting salaries to its associates.
(It should be noted, however, that the Duval firm is more elitist when it comes to its lateral hiring. As discussed here, for entry-level hiring, the firm looks well beyond the top-tier law schools. But for midlevel and senior associates, it tends to poach from the Skaddens and Lathams of the world — and pay accordingly.)
P.S. For a more upbeat take on Cadwalader, see Ashby Jones’s Legal Beat column in the Wall Street Journal (via the WSJ Law Blog). UPDATE / CLARIFICATION: We have received a letter from Bruce Stachenfeld, founding partner of Duval & Stachenfeld, clarifying the situation. An excerpt:
When I (the managing partner of D&S) heard about the CWT layoff news my immediate reaction was that I felt very bad for my friends at CWT. It is a great firm suffering from some market turmoil and all of us running law firms know that adverse market forces can happen to any of us.
My other reaction was that since we are hiring junior lawyers a possible win/win/win would be for us to talk to CWT directly about whether we could hire some of their adversely affected people. This would permit us to find some super-star-high-quality associates – would permit CWT to help its people locate new jobs – and would permit some of the adversely affected associates to get new jobs promptly.
So I did the logical thing and contacted one of my friends at CWT to discuss this. After my discussion I sent a letter to be sent to some of the associates who had the requisite background to fit into our real estate group. It remains to be seen if we will end up hiring CWT associates. My hope is yes.
Since resumes had started to come in (through legal recruiters) I instructed our recruitment coordinator to inform legal recruiters that I would not be accepting resumes through legal recruiters due to our close relationship with CWT. I thought it appropriate to let the legal recruiters know this promptly to avoid misunderstandings with them about recruitment fees.
This shouldn’t come as a huge surprise, but résumés from refugees of Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft are all over the street right now. One recruiter, at an outside headhunting firm, described receiving “a flood” of CWT résumés in the past week. An in-house recruiting coordinator at an Am Law 100 firm agreed, noting that, interestingly enough, a number of the CWT submissions appear to be from lawyers in departments largely untouched by the layoffs. People at Cadwalader seem to be heading for the exits, in droves — even lawyers in “safe” practice areas.
We can hardly blame them. When it comes to career planning these days, being proactive and playing defensively is smart. If you think there’s even a chance you might be laid off from your law firm (or that your law firm might dissolve), start exploring your options early. As the conventional wisdom goes, it’s generally easier to find a job when you have a job.
To be sure, five months of severance, which is what Cadwalader is giving the 96 lawyers it axed last week, is generous (but justified — lawyers who survived the January layoffs were told they’d have jobs at least through the end of the year). But five months goes by more quickly than you’d think — and the job market, as everyone knows, is crappy not great. As reported by Am Law Daily, ten of the victims of the January layoffs at Cadwalader have yet to find new jobs, some seven months later.
Perhaps surprisingly, however, Cadwalader continues to bring on new people, even as it sends almost 100 attorneys into the unemployment wilderness. We got our hands on an email that was sent around firm-wide today, without even taking the dismissed attorneys off of the distribution, announcing the arrival of a new bankruptcy associate.
Check it out, after the jump.
This sign captures the flavor of the past week in law firm news, including the massive layoffs at Cadwalader and the office closings at Akin Gump. If you have other tips for us, send them to us here.
The law firm pain is starting to be felt even by those still in law school. We’ve been forwarded various emails announcing that some firms or offices have canceled on-campus interviews for 2009 prospective summer associates, including the New York office of Dorsey & Whitney, the Chicago office of Midwestern firm Barnes & Thornburg, and, as we reported on Wednesday, Cadwalader (at certain law schools, e.g., Rutgers – Newark). Here are excerpts from the notices:
From John Marshall Law School:
I received notice from the head of recruiting at Barnes & Thornburg that the firm will not be having a summer program in its Chicago office next summer. Therefore, the OCI option for that firm has been removed from Symplicity.
From Columbia Law School:
The New York office of Dorsey & Whitney LLP will no longer be interviewing at EIP (ed. note: Early Interview Program) as they have decided not to have a formal summer associate program in 2009.
From Rutgers Law School:
Also, please note that Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP, scheduled to interview on campus on August 13th, has had to cancel and will contact students independently to schedule interviews if they are selected.
We expected large law firms to power on with their summer associate programs, so we were somewhat surprised to hear that Dorsey & Whitney is suspending its program in New York. Then again, it was a rather small program — about five summer associates in 2007, per the firm’s NALP form (PDF). A Dorsey spokesperson had this comment:
It is true that the New York office of Dorsey & Whitney will not sponsor a formal summer associate program in 2009. We have made this decision based upon our hiring needs in the New York office at this time. This decision with respect to the New York office summer associate program does not preclude the possibility of hiring an incoming class for 2010 in our New York office. The firm’s other offices that have traditionally sponsored summer associate programs will continue to do so.
Have other firms canceled their OCIs at your school? Please let us know in the comments, including your school, the firm, and the firm office.
See full notices from firms regarding OCI cancellation, after the jump.
Nope, we’re not done covering yesterday’sbloodbath over at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. If the powers-that-be at CWT think they can lay off almost 100 lawyers and have everyone forget about in a day, they’re sorely mistaken. We intend to stick with this story for quite some time (in part because you can’t get enough of it, judging from our traffic logs, the robust commenting, and the continuing inflow of tips).
As many commenters have noted, memories are long when it comes to lawyer layoffs. Prospective recruits will hold this against Cadwalader five years from now — assuming CWT is still around then — just as people still remember which firms laid off lawyers in the last downturn, in the early 2000s.
We have some additional info to pass along, based on reports from summer and incoming associates. Yesterday afternoon, Cadwalader held a meeting for its summers, led by chairman Chris White and hiring committee chair Paul Mourning (yup, “Mourning”). Former chairman Bob Link attended, but had a non-speaking role.
White told the summer class essentially what he told the WSJ Law Blog (down to quoting the same numbers, and stressing that the layoffs were mostly in real estate finance and asset securitization). Mourning focused on issues particular to the summer class:
He didn’t say what people wanted to hear (that everyone could still expect an offer). Instead, he said something like “the firm will continue to use the same evaluation criteria that it has used in the past” and that some people will get offers without knowing what exact practice group they will be in. The latter is likely a reference to people who chose corporate or capital markets as their top choice but will likely have to do litigation until the market picks up.
This is in contrast to Chris White explicitly saying in his opening day speech to the summers (after addressing the previous 35-lawyer layoff) that the firm expected to extend offers to all summer associates.
Paul also mentioned that the firm doesn’t expect to rescind any offers to the incoming first-year class. Some summers found it unnerving that he even mentioned that.
Speaking of incoming first-years at CWT, one of them forwarded us the email the firm sent to the group — check it out, after the jump — along with this commentary:
Just wanted to send along the email I got yesterday. First thing I read when I got home from the NYS Bar Exam! I have to believe that they powers that be at CWT were completely clueless that yesterday was the NY Bar. Why not wait another week? What a drop-kick to the gut.
This individual asked for advice:
Should I start spamming the resume now, or wait until September when I start at CWT? (There’s the old adage that it’s easiest to find a job when you’ve already got one).
Should I contact Career Services, or is that window closed to me, now that I’m an alum?
Uncharted territory, for sure. I’d love to here from the peanut gallery.
So, commenters, whaddya think?
Our advice: start your job search as soon as reasonably practicable — maybe after your bar trip, if you’re taking one — and continue it after you arrive at Cadwalader. Feel free to call upon Career Services; they’re usually eager to help alums (although we understand that some law schools, at the height of fall recruiting, limit the services they provide to alumni).
Don’t let yourself be buffeted by the winds of fate; take charge of your career and your life. Don’t be a Pollyanna, thinking that things will probably get better. They probably won’t — at least not anytime soon.
Of the people who stuck around at CWT after the January layoffs, thinking they would just “ride it out,” 96 of them are now headed for the unemployment line. They could perhaps be excused for buying the firm’s reassurances back then, before the past few months of terrible economic news, especially with respect to the real estate and credit markets.
But you have no such excuse; the writing is on the proverbial wall. Remember the saying that George W. Bush famously mangled: “Fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.” Do yourself a favor — as well as a favor to the firm, and to those who remain there — and get the hell out, if you can. Voluntary departures will reduce the number of people to be laid off in round three.
Two memos — the email message that CWT sent to its incoming associates, and the email message the firm sent to the career services offices of certain law schools — are posted after the jump.
Back to the big story of the day: the massive lawyerlayoffs, almost in the triple digits, at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. We thought now might be a good time to put up a fresh post, since the prior thread is getting a bit unwieldy (with 200+ comments — selected excerpts, after the jump).
So what’s there to add to the story? Let’s see…. Cadwalader issued a statement in response to our inquiries. It’s not terribly exciting — most of it repeats what CWT told the WSJ — but you can check it out, if you’re bored, after the jump.
We’re not career counselors, but you don’t need to be an expert to know that CWT is probably best avoided for the upcoming round of fall recruiting / on-campus interviewing. Generally you should run away from, not into, burning buildings (unless you’re a firefighter).
If for some reason you are still interested in working at Cadwalader — well, good luck with that. The firm is withdrawing from on-campus interviewing at a number of law schools. E.g., Rutgers – Newark (memo after the jump). The Rutgers memo states that CWT “will contact students independently to schedule interviews if they are selected.” In other words, don’t call them; they’ll call you.
Cadwalader cutting back on OCI isn’t terribly shocking. The firm has less manpower to cover fall recruiting, having laid off so many lawyers. It probably wants to reduce expenses related to fall recruiting (which can be a costly process for firms, especially if overnight travel is involved). And maybe the firm has concluded that the last thing it needs right now are more people on its payroll.
Finally, here’s a little tidbit we received by email:
At CWT in Charlotte, the attorneys who were fired came in this morning to find envelopes on their chairs breaking the bad news. Dicey move.
Dicey? We’re not so sure. The ginormous layoffs are already a PR disaster — and Cadwalader arguably wants to make itself seem like a less appealing place to work, at least in the short term.
But classy? Not very.
Remember, there’s more stuff after the jump: highlighted comments from the last thread, Cadwalader’s official statement on the layoffs, and an example of a law school career services memo announcing CWT’s withdrawal from on-campus interviewing.
History repeats itself. We quote from our post of January 10:
Just half an hour ago, based on information we gleaned from various sources, we asked: “Is today Layoff Day at Cadwalader?” The answer would appear to be: YES.
Earlier this morning, we once again posed the question: “Is today Layoff Day at Cadwalader?” And once again, the firm has confirmed — this time to the WSJ Law Blog — that it will be laying off 96 lawyers, from counsel on down to first-year associates. The intelligence in our post from earlier this morning, which estimated the carnage at “as many as 100 attorneys, ranging from special counsel down to the current first-year associate class,” was essentially correct.
90 of the 96 cuts will come out of the real estate finance and securitization practices, said the firm’s chairman, Chris White. Most of the affected lawyers, said White, are in the New York, Charlotte and London offices, with “one or two” in Washington. The 96 layoffs are in addition to the 35 lawyers the firm laid off in January.
Wow — that’s a ton of attorneys. Ninety-six lawyers would appear to be the biggest round of lawyer layoffs in the current economic cycle (see Bruce MacEwen’s layoffs table). Congratulations, Cadwalader!
Cadwalader chairman Chris White gives the WSJ Law Blog a spiel about how the firm got caught up in the mania surrounding commercial mortgage-backed securities:
“There was a frothiness that occurred as a result of the Blackstones and the Apollos using mortgage-backed securities to fund their buyouts. It was a lot like junk bonds becoming the instrument of choice in the late 80′s and early 90′s.”
White explained that, in 2004, there were only $98 billion worth of mortgage-backed securities issued. In 2008, he said, that number ballooned to $314 billion. “So we grew right along with client demand. And now that market has contracted severely. That $314 billion from last year will go to roughly $60 billion in 2008 — an 80% contraction.”
With his use of the passive — “[t]here was a frothiness” — and his “we grew right along with client demand” remark, White seems to be offering a “not our fault, everyone was doing it, nobody predicted this” sort of defense. But isn’t it the job of firm management to make sure that a firm is well-diversified among practice areas and adequately protected against downside risk?
(Perhaps the WSJ Law Blog should have pressed White a bit harder on this. Maybe they could have gotten White to throw former chairman Bob Link under the bus, since the firm’s disastrous overexpansion happened under Link’s watch. Link is the leader featured in the firm’s embarrassing-in-hindsight video advertisement.)
To be sure, other Biglaw shops have been hurt by the credit crunch and the economic downturn. But after this latest round of layoffs, involving close to 100 lawyers, it lies beyond dispute that no major firm has been hit as hard as Cadwalader. This obviously raises questions — or should, in the mind of anyone looking to work for or retain CWT — about whether the firm is well-managed.
As for offering the “affected” associates an opportunity to transfer into other groups, White said, “We can do that a little bit at the junior levels — the first and second years — but, at the third, fourth and fifth years, lawyers aren’t fungible.”…
Markel said that the 96 associates who are laid off will receive severance pay through the end of the year.
Five months’ severance — is this accurate? If so, it’s definitely on the generous side. So look on the bright side, CWT associates: you’re getting almost half a year of paid vacation.
We’ll have more on the Cadwalader situation as it unfolds. If you have info to share, please email us. Thanks. Update: More about the Cadwalader layoffs appears here. Cadwalader to Cut 96 Lawyers [WSJ Law Blog]
If the title of this post sounds familiar to you, it should. We used it back in January, a few hours before major layoffs — amounting to about 35 attorneys — at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.
In the months since then, we’ve heard all sorts of other rumors about Cadwalader. There have been whispers that the number of attorneys laid off last time may have been closer to 50 rather than 35. We’ve heard about possible staff layoffs. There has also been talk of quieter, smaller-scale reductions in attorney ranks at CWT — “strategic firings,” as one tipster put it. This source guessed that the firm has already shed around 100 attorneys since its peak.
But losing 100 lawyers, if true, may not have been enough. Word on the street is that Cadwalader is now bracing for another round of large-scale layoffs, which could be announced as early as today or tomorrow. In the words of one source, “Surprised you haven’t posted anything on Cadwalader. Major s**t going down…”
Here’s the most detailed account of several that we’ve received (after the jump):
Some folks, including Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson, think that we’ve seen the worst of the credit crisis. Let’s hope that they’re right.
But the business climate is still less-than-fabulous for finance lawyers. Here’s another sign of the times: at Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, the Global Finance department, a former powerhouse within the firm, has been folded into the Corporate department.
From a tipster at Cadwalader who sent along the announcement:
See below re: CWT’s recent departmental merger. This has also affected the way summers will receive offers. In the past, summers received department specific offers. While this will remain true for litigation, tax, and IP, those wishing to pursue a transactional practice will receive a transactional offer. It is unclear at this point whether new transactional associates will then be placed into one pool from which any transactional department can draw or whether there will be a departmental rotation.
If you’re interested, the memo appears after the jump.
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
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The last time I flapped my wings your way, I tried to make at least enough noise about your mobile phone to make you more than a little bit uncomfortable. I hope I did. If enough of us become anxious enough about the known and unknown unknowns and knowns in our mobile phones, then we can start making wise decisions about how to manage that information and its resultant investigations.
Today, I’d like to put a finer point on the last installment’s topic by asking a question that seemed to catch most attendees off-guard at a conference panel that I moderated last week: is there discoverable personal information in a mobile app? Our panelists’ answer was a uniform “yes” with one stating that, if he had to choose only one type of data that he could discover from a mobile phone, he’d choose app data. Why? Because there’s simply so much of it and because almost all of it is objective – not just user-created like an email – but machine-tracked like GPS, usage duration, log in and log out times, browsed web addresses, browsed actual addresses. Also, most of us seem to have the idea that data doesn’t actually “stick” to our mobile devices the way it “sticks” to our hard drives. Maybe there’s a disconnect based on the fact that our phones are mobile so we assume the data is mobile to?
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