Earlier today, the New York outpost of TheLawyer.com, a British publication, reported on personnel reductions at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. The report was of keen interest to us because we’ve been hearing rumors — generally vague and unsubstantiated, but persistent — of “stealth layoffs” at STB.
The folks over at The Lawyer seem to be hearing similar gossip, some of which appears in their report:
[Simpson Thacher ] has taken the unusual step of introducing a mid-year performance review for its associates. It is understood that the benchmark for associates to reach in order to keep their jobs is significantly higher than in previous appraisals.
Market sources have suggested that up to 30 associates have been asked to consider their positions as a result of the review. Simpson Thacher chairman Pete Ruegger denied the firm was making credit crunch-related layoffs.
This report appears to be erroneous, at least in a few respects. We spoke with Simpson partner James D. Cross, co-chair of the firm’s Personnel Committee, who described it as “wildly inaccurate”:
It’s business as usual here as far as reviews. We have not changed our standards, and we have not changed our process. We’ve always had a midyear review process. I don’t know where someone came up with the number of 30 [affected associates].
A second STB source echoed Cross’s statement, telling us that “no new mid-year process was introduced.” The firm has long conducted midyear reviews for (1) first-year associates and (2) more senior lawyers who received negative annual reviews. According to this source, “if a more senior lawyer gets a negative annual review, that person will often be slated for a midyear review so that progress can be checked after six months, not just annually, and so that the firm makes sure it is doing all it can in terms of additional training and mentoring.”
Additional discussion, after the jump.