Internal Memos

Above the Law may need to hire a full-time legal bathroom beat reporter.

A few days ago, we learned that Harvard Law School named a bathroom after an alumnus with an, umm, unusual last name.

Last night, we received a tip about the San Francisco branch of a national law firm that delivered an office-wide email concerning “restroom etiquette.” The email is hilarious, and if nothing else, impressively thorough. They thought of everything. The missive covered tips for masking awkward bathroom noises, suggestions for choosing a urinal, and an emphasis on the ways bathroom behavior can affect your professional reputation.

Let’s see which firm has (toilet) water on the brain, and take a look at the memo….

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Wilmer Hale logo.JPGLast month, the firm of WilmerHale denied that any layoffs have taken place at the firm. The accuracy of that statement depends on what the meaning of “layoff” is.

In an internal memo obtained by Above the Law, the firm acknowledges that “a very small number of individuals” have been asked to leave WH for economic reasons. The memo also notes that the performance review process “is affected by the reality of current economic conditions, as performance issues sometimes come to light more when business is slower.”

(This may constitute some welcome candor. Other firms try to claim, somewhat implausibly, that performance reviews are utterly unaffected by the economy, i.e., that associates are judged by the exact same standards as in boom times.)

Still, the knowledge that the economy contributed to one’s purportedly performance-based dismissal is cold comfort. From an affected associate at WilmerHale:

I was one of the ones that was cut for “performance” reasons. My evaluations were [several] pages long, single spaced — of accolades… with one half of one sentence that mentioned something I could improve on… from one partner out of [many] that evaluated me. I was let go based on that one phase, copied and pasted on the front of the eval…. Unlike the claim [in the memo] that the firm cannot give associates “three or four” chances to make improvements, I had never received a similar comment in the past.

Many partners were apparently left out of the process of deciding which associates to cut — and as a result have begun to “vent” to the associates that were cut about the process. We (as cut associates) actually had the incredibly uncomfortable task of informing partners that we worked with, who did not know we had been cut, that we were leaving. The resulting frustration of partners has led to a leak of a few tidbits of info on the numbers cut. The numbers floating around differ, but I’ve heard that between 10-15% of all associates firm wide were informed of their “transitions” over the past month. Apparently, another round may be coming in the fall.

Anxiety-inducing for current WilmerHale associates, but perhaps not a surprise. Expect a number of firms to trim their ranks after summer associates head back to school.

More discussion, plus the full memo, after the jump.

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inbox Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgWe know we ask a lot of you: salary information for Skaddenfreude, legal celebrity sightings for The Eyes of the Law, and funny summer associate stories (which you’ve been slow to deliver thus far). But please, indulge us yet again.
One of the (few) pleasures of working in a large law office is receiving silly or stupid internal memos — you know, the kind that you snicker about with colleagues over lunch, or maybe forward to your friends by email for their amusement.
Back when we were in practice, this stern, one-line memo — from one of the nation’s leading corporate lawyers — went out to all of the firm’s support staff:

Reminder: there is to be no popcorn made in any of our kitchen microwaves.

Apparently this missive was prompted by concern over the firm offices smelling like a movie theater. And we can appreciate this concern. When you’re trying to close a billion-dollar deal, a sudden hankering for a 32-ounce Coke can be very distracting.
(Well, at least the floors weren’t sticky. They were carpeted — which we appreciated on those nights we’d take half-hour naps on our office floor, while waiting for word processing to turn some document around.)
This popcorn memo is rather innocuous. We know that far more scandalous internal memos — like emails setting forth detailed guidelines for appropriate attire, after a summer associate shows up in a denim micro-mini — are floating out there.
So send us the most asinine or amusing internal memos circulated in your workplace. We’ll review what you submit, then publish the best (worst?) memos in these pages — after redacting any information that could reveal your identity as our tipster. Here at ATL, we always keep our sources confidential (unless they want to be recognized).
As usual, please send them to us by email (with “Internal Memo” somewhere in the subject line). Thanks in advance for your contributions.