Last week I wrote about some aspects of client service in today’s Biglaw. Today I want to focus on Biglaw’s embrace of partner de-equitizations and layoffs. These tactics are one of the ways Biglaw has been dealing with the fallout of the Black Death that has struck our industry.
Unfortunately, it seems like this year has gotten off to a bad start Biglaw-wise, in terms of both demand and a continuing lack of creativity by management at nearly every single firm. That brings consequences. Stay tuned. I have already said that I don’t mind if the paunchy mid-section of the Am Law 100 starts embracing a “bottom’s out” approach to the partnership — but at least have the guts to embrace it, not spin it.
I am really starting to dislike the tone that managing partners are starting to adopt when they talk about eliminating partners. Yes, I said eliminate. You may have seen them. Public statements where managing partner X almost gleefully informs the public of the elimination of nearly ten percent of his “partners” in the face of falling revenues. And looks for applause because his firm’s PPP went up $17,000 as a result. Go read some of the recent Biglaw “report cards” for a taste of this rancid stew.
We should be clear about the consequences of such a practice….
In round one of our Above the Law March Madness bracket, aimed at finding the law firm with the brightest future, Davis Polk is up against (and currently beating) Latham & Watkins. I actually found that to be a pretty rough opening match-up; both Davis and Latham strike me as firms that should be in the Sweet 16, and maybe even the Elite Eight.
Thanks to its top talent, superb brand, and global footprint, Latham has a bright future as a firm. Of course, working there can be like riding a roller-coaster: it expands like crazy and mints money during good times, then conducts massive layoffs during bad times. But if you can stomach the ups and downs, LW can be a great place to work.
Alas, not everyone at the firm will get to keep working there….
For Supreme Court clerks from October Term 2011, the historic Term of NFIB v. Sebelius (aka “Obamacare”), the hot firm to go to was Jones Day. As Tony Mauro recently reported, the firm hired six SCOTUS clerks from the OT 2011 class, which “may be the most clerks signed up by a single firm from a single term” (although Ted Frank suggests that Kirkland & Ellis might have had seven clerks back in 1995).
UPDATE (3/17/2013, 1 p.m.): Per Mauro, K&E has never had six or seven clerks from a single Term.
Leading litigatrix Beth Heifetz — a former SCOTUS clerk herself (OT 1985 / Blackmun), and a Tina Fey doppelgänger — confirmed that Jones Day paid the going rate in terms of SCOTUS clerkship bonuses: $280,000 (on top of the usual base salary and year-end bonus). One of the new hires, Rachel Bloomekatz, is joining JD’s office in Columbus, Ohio. She should be able to survive out there on half a million (the SCOTUS clerkship bonus plus a fifth-year associate’s salary; she’s a 2008 UCLA Law grad).
But what if you’re in the Columbus office and not a SCOTUS clerk? Don’t expect to be shown the money; instead, you might be shown the door….
When I graduated from law school, one of the perceived benefits of working in Biglaw was job security. This manifested itself in various ways.
First, firms rarely, if ever, conducted true “layoffs;” i.e., reductions in force based more on outside economic factors than qualitative assessments of the affected employees. The rate of hiring either accelerated or slowed, but rarely reversed.
The “no layoff” tradition was to some extent rooted in a genteel culture, but more directly based on pure economics. Most Biglaw firms had more available work than they could handle at any given time. If work slowed, partners nonetheless were confident that it would pick back up…
* Celebrated litigator David Boies thinks the Supreme Court is going to rule in favor of gay marriage in a united front — which is helpful, since in March he’s arguing in favor of gay marriage in the Prop 8 case. [USA Today]
* “What we had to do was do more with less.” Archer & Greiner had to lay off 14 attorneys and 27 staffers thanks to the firm’s rapid overexpansion via mergers. This is why we can’t have nice things. [New Jersey Law Journal]
* In New York / Concrete jungle where dreams are made of / There’s nothing you can’t do / Now you’re in New York / Law deans will try to inspire you / But rankings will ruin you / Hear it for New York! [New York Law Journal]
* If you’d like to save the world by working a public-interest job, you’d better consider Penn Law. Its LRAP now covers all IBR loan payments over 10 years for a total savings of up to $140,000. [National Law Journal]
* But then again, if you’re not interested in public-interest work, you can always get a temp job, where you’ll allegedly make as much as “a mid-level associate at a small or medium firm.” [U.S. News & World Report]
* Because Lindsay Lohan’s lawyer was called out by a judge for a performance that was almost as piss poor in his client’s in Liz & Dick, he contacted a local firm to step in and assist him. [L.A. Now / Los Angeles Times]
* The triple-dog dare: a technique employed to show off how just efficient American democracy is, or something that’s just so ridiculous it might work in the Senate when it comes to judicial filibusters for appeals court nominees. [New York Times]
* If the Supreme Court were to strike down Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, the Obama administration has a plan in the works from the last time they thought the Supreme Court was going to strike down the very same section. [Huffington Post]
* It takes more than one legal memo to justify the killing of an American overseas — just ask the guys from the DOJ’s Office of Legal Counsel who rationalized the drone strike against Anwar al-Awlaki. [New York Times]
* Remember the Winston & Strawn stealth associate layoffs of 2012? Those weren’t layoffs, silly. They just left “because of reduced demand for junior lawyers.” Also, we have a bridge to sell you in Brooklyn. [Am Law Daily]
* If you’re not satisfied with your law degree after failing the bar exam, don’t worry, we’ve got a money-back guarantee. We’ll give you back 8.9% of your three-year tuition. It’s better than nothing! [National Law Journal]
* Meanwhile, if law school were only two years long instead of three, then perhaps a money-back guarantee would actually mean something. For now, it’s just one big public relations stunt. [Pittsburgh Post-Gazette]
* Joseph Kelner, plaintiffs’ attorney in the Kent State suit and lawyer for Bernie Goetz, RIP. [New York Times]
Law firm layoffs are back (assuming they ever left). This is not a complete shock, since we heard predictions of them in January, including predictions of partner layoffs.
Many of these layoffs are stealth layoffs — so some firms might argue that they’re not even layoffs, just performance-based dismissals made in the ordinary course of business. It’s hard for us to report on these unless we receive enough tips. If we hear from a single lawyer or staffer who has been asked to leave, that could be a performance-based dismissal; if we hear from multiple lawyers or staffers at the same firm, that starts to look more like layoffs. If you have layoff information you’d like to share, please email us or text us (646-820-8477).
Now, on to the layoffs at Patton Boggs, D.C.-based law firm and lobbying powerhouse. These reductions were too large to fly under the radar….
Please note the UPDATES below regarding the number of affected employees.
Law school is a ‘debt wizard’ — it’ll make your money disappear like magic!
* In the nick of time, lawyers for the Obama administration filed a brief with the Supreme Court urging the justices to strike down California’s ban on gay marriage. Let’s hope their views have evolved. [BuzzFeed]
* As the lawyers and administrative staff who just got laid off at Patton Boggs can attest to, it sucks to be on the wrong side of “rightsizing.” We’ll have more on this developing story later today. [Reuters]
* Lanny Breuer is leaving the DOJ today, and he’s doing it with a bit of “swagger.” He’s shrugging off rumors that he’ll retreat to Covington, insisting he’ll interview at many firms. [DealBook / New York Times]
* It’s time for the changing of the guard over at Milbank Tweed. Mel Immergut, the longest serving chair of any Am Law 100 firm in New York, is passing the reins to Scott Edelman. [New York Law Journal]
* Michigan Law has a new “Debt Wizard” program that’s extremely useful in that it will allow you to see what you’re getting yourself into. Or, in my case, how poor I’ll be for the rest of my life. Yay! [National Law Journal]
* All he wanted to do was “make the world a better place,” but that didn’t work out so well. In a plea deal, Bradley Manning pleaded guilty to 10 of the charges against him in his WikiLeaks case. [Los Angeles Times]
* Of all of the words that are used to describe Cory Booker, one of them is now “matchmaker.” The Newark mayor assisted a young Seyfarth Shaw associate with his engagement proposal earlier this week. [TIME]
These are not outliers. They’re not anomalies. It is something that’s happening quietly in many, many firms in the industry.
– Zeughauser Group consultant Kent Zimmermann, commenting on the stealth layoffs that have been going on at Biglaw firms around the country. In fact, according to his sources — all managing partners — at least three major firms will soon be conducting another round of layoffs.
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Panchal Associates LLP–a corporate/finance and outside general counsel boutique–was quickly off to a great start. Clients and matters were flying in the door, and Chintan soon had a team of lawyers and staff with a variety of operational needs. To continue building an excellent team and provide them with a competitive benefits package, to expand his physical presence to include a European practice and additional partners, and to scale his operations and IT capabilities to support this growing enterprise brought with it demands of time, money, and expertise. Chintan knew he needed help.
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The holiday season is upon us, and yet again, you have no idea what to get for the fickle lawyer in your life. We’re here to help. Even if your bonus check hasn’t arrived yet, any one of the gifts we’ve highlighted here could be a worthy substitute until your employer decides to make it rain.
We’ve got an eclectic selection for you to choose from, so settle in by that stack of documents yet to be reviewed and dig in…
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