* A word of advice to the new summer associates: Paralegals can’t be trusted. [Legal Intelligencer]
* SCOTUS dismissed the lawsuit that sought to punish top Bush officials, including former Attorney General John Ashcroft, for detaining Muslims that were not involved in 9-11. [Christian Science Monitor]
* Military commission trials for Guantanamo detainees present many of the same challenges that the Bush administration faced, in spite of Obama’s facelift. [New York Times]
* The White House passed on an opportunity to bring a case involving gays in the military to the Supreme Court. Are they stalling and playing politics or are they right to say that the law should be changed in the legislature and not the courts? [Wall Street Journal (subscription)]
* What do potential SCOTUS nominees and ambulance chasers have in common? Uh, hopefully nothing…[Esquire]
* The court will hear a case against Sarbanes-Oxley in the fall term–is this the time to question too much oversight? [Washington Post]
* A word of advice to the new summer associates: Paralegals can’t be trusted. [Legal Intelligencer]
Given the challenging environment for journalism, we thought you might be worried about the fates of Sue: For Women in Litigation and KNOW: A Magazine for Paralegals. We know you have a special interest in Sue since one of you ATL readers was responsible for naming the magazine.
Though the magazine’s publisher, Chere Estrin of EstrinLegalEd, filed for Chapter 11 in December (Bankruptcy Petition # 2:08-bk-32520-BR), the magazines struggle on. We surfed over to their websites and discovered that KNOW is down to 6 issues per year, and that Sue just released its inaugural issue, albeit a digital version only. According to the website:
Sue is a 100-percent digital publication. It looks just like a hard-copy magazine except that you will view it on your PC. You can even ‘turn’ the pages. The inaugural edition is Feb./Mar. 2009.
Well, that sounds snazzy. We didn’t get a chance to peruse the digital mag, but it must be good given its endorsements. The homepage proclaims:
Sue Magazine has been recognized in AmLaw Online; The National Law Journal; The ABA Journal; Above The Law and other prestigious publications.
We’ve been called many things, but prestigious is a new one.
In case comments are not indicative of general trends, here are some polls to see what your peers are doing. New York is its own world, and gets its own poll:
And what about the trend across the rest of the country?
One commenter says that even if you have a bad secretary, “one of those ‘can’t make a copy’ people,” associates should still give a small gift, but should not feel obligated to give a hefty cash bonus.
More polls — about who you are giving to, and how to handle gift-giving if you’ve changed secretaries — after the jump.
With the holidays two weeks away, many are starting to think about the frantic search for gifts for loved ones… and loved support staff. A Consumer Reports survey indicates that 76% of Americans will cut back on gift giving this year. Surprise, surprise. But what does it mean for planning your gift for your secretary and/or paralegal?
Writes one ATL reader:
I’m a NYC 4th year and for three years have given my secretary $100 per year I’ve been at my firm (plus a small — $25 — physical gift as well). If I follow that pattern, I’d give her $400 cash in a few weeks.
My secretary is great and I would like to show my appreciation. But this year, with my job hardly safe and my bonus likely to be at Half-Skadden levels (if I even survive long enough to get a bonus), does the $100 per year rule still apply in NYC?
I think we need a full post on this. It’s not 2007 anymore.
$400 seems high, even for New York. We thought $150-200 was the going rate.
For the uninitiated, it’s customary for associates at large law firms to give a cash gift to their administrative assistants, often along with a card or small gift. Not everyone opts for cold, hard cash– some do AmEx or Visa gift cards. (If you do choose to go with bills, please make sure they are not of the soiled, dog-eared variety.)
One secretary wrote to us this year to voice opposition to the inter-office gift giving (and she’s not the only one):
How should a legal secretary ask her lawyers to not give her gifts? I don’t think Christmas has any place at work, and, though I respect and appreciate my lawyers, I don’t want them giving me gifts. I find it awkward and embarrassing on many different levels. I’ve been at my current job 5 years and tried at first simply not reciprocating. But they never got the message. I’m dreading this year’s ordeal like the plague. They make a little ceremony of calling me into an office as if I were in trouble. Please ask your readers what I might say that would stop the gifts without offending my guys. Thanks!
So, here’s an open thread to discuss your gift-giving plans in the current economic environment. Are you scaling back this year due to a diminished bonus? What’s the scale in your town? Does your paralegal get to sit on Santa’s lap as well? And if your secretary wants no part in the 12 days of Christmas, how should she let you know?
- Associate Bonus Watch 2008, Bonuses, Paralegals, Secretaries / Administrative Assistants, Thacher Proffitt & Wood
Thacher Proffitt & Wood has been struggling for some time. A memo sent by managing partner Paul Tvetenstrand to TPW staff the Wednesday before Thanksgiving provides the latest evidence of the firm’s faltering state:
From: Paul D. Tvetenstrand
To: Non-legal staff
As you are aware. The past year has posed many challenges for the firm given the downturn in the economic climate which has affected our clients and ultimately the firm. Unfortunately given this continuing downturn the firm will not be able to pay any bonuses or year end service awards this year. We truly appreciate the contributions each of you has made in these trying times and we wish we were able to recognize each of you as you deserve.
I’m not at all sure why TPW tried to bury this information within the Thanksgiving news cycle. Did they think TPW staffers were not going to notice? Maybe they were thinking of maintaining their industry reputation, but most people who have been paying attention already know that TPW is in serious trouble.
More TPW back story after the jump.
Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson is reducing administrative staff in New York and Washington. The reductions, which a firm spokeswoman said were less than 10% of the law firm’s 730 staffers firmwide, affect primarily floating secretaries, part-time assistants and paralegals and library personnel.
The layoffs, first reported on AboveTheLaw.com, resulted from the law firm’s review of its administrative resources and staffing requirements. The employees will receive severance packages based on years of service, the spokeswoman said.
Update / Correction: One source questions the claim that the layoffs affected “primarily” floaters and part-time assistants. According to this tipster, many of the laid off employees were full-time, senior secretaries — a number of them over 50, and some just a few months shy of getting their pensions. This source predicts that age discrimination lawsuits will be filed.
One tipster tells us the number of affected employees was in the range of 50 to 60, which would amount to under 10 percent of 730 staffers, and that severance amounted to one week of pay for every year of service. We also hear this:
Apparently, mail room, duplicating and facilities were told that their jobs were being outsourced by the end of the year. They could start looking for new jobs before getting laid off at the end of the year or apply with the outsourcing agencies (with no guarantees of a job or placement at Fried Frank).
New York staff were given “a few minutes to pack up and get out”; cars were provided to take people home (a nice touch — hopefully that will become “market”). One source claims that employees were laid off without regard to their seniority or their performance reviews, whether negative or positive.
What about attorneys? A spokesperson emphasized to us that Fried Frank “doesn’t do lawyer layoffs,” which was reiterated to associates by firm chair Valerie Ford Jacob at a meeting yesterday.
(Jacob also claimed that the firm has never laid off lawyers. But one source at FFHSJ begs to differ. This source claims that the firm laid off attorneys back in 1990, and then “suffered years of recruiting problems because of it,” which may explain its reluctance to go down that path today.)
More detail about the meeting, after the jump.
Last week we started hearing rumors of imminent staff layoffs at Fried Frank. The rumors have now come true, as we’ve been hearing from multiple sources. Today appears to be the big day.
We submitted an inquiry to the firm. A spokesperson issued the following statement:
Over two years ago Fried Frank began a review of its administrative resources and staffing requirements. As part of this review process some departments were expanded and others consolidated.
Today’s administrative staff reductions are part of that business review process. Those affected are in the Firm’s NY and Washington DC offices. Severance and career counseling were offered to all of those affected.
We aren’t sure of the numbers (and the firm has not yet responded to our request for that data). One of the rumors from last week said the number could be as high as 10 percent of total staff headcount. We hear that in the D.C. office, at least eight or nine people have been laid off, as of the time of this posting. The numbers in New York are said to be significantly higher than in Washington.
The affected employees include secretaries, paralegals, and library personnel. Severance packages appear to vary, from as low as seven weeks to as high as three months.
People are being called in and given the bad news individually. But meetings are also being held at 3:30 and 4:00 p.m. in D.C. (It’s not clear what New York is doing.)
One staffer in New York was given 30 minutes to pack up all belongings and leave the premises. In Washington, however, that’s not happening; one source describes that office as “more humane.”
We will bring you more information as the story develops. If you have information to share, please email us.
Whatever happened to asking your paralegal to make some binders? Or asking your secretary for some photocopying, or to fill out your expense report? When it comes to support staff, why are lawyers getting so demanding all of a sudden?
First this. Now this, via the Tampa Tribune:
A former legal assistant in Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender Bob Dillinger’s office has filed a federal lawsuit against him, alleging she was retaliated against after complaining that male lawyers had made sexually degrading remarks to her.
Jessica A. Schwartz filed the lawsuit Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Tampa….
[Schwartz's boss Alan] Bulnes and another lawyer, Brett Berger, [allegedly] had a conversation with Schwartz in which they suggested she pole dance in her office like a stripper, the lawsuit states.
We bet those colored post-it flags would make great pasties.
Ex-Legal Assistant Sues Pinellas-Pasco Public Defender [Tampa Tribune]
Earlier: Paralegal: Will Collate, Will Not Fellate
Nationwide Layoff Watch: Bingham Axes Staff
(Not earth-shattering news; we just want to be thorough.)
Okay, this is not the most exciting layoff news ever. It pales in comparison to the massive bloodshed over at Cadwalader this morning, which forced us to break out the Drudge siren. It reminds us of those Kaye Scholer secretarial layoffs from May, just not as big.
But when it comes to law-firm layoff coverage, we try to be as thorough and as granular in detail as possible. If people click on the Layoffs tag here at ATL, they should be able to access, in one place, news of all acknowledged — and some unacknowledged — layoffs at Am Law 200 firms, covering both lawyers and staff.
So, with that said, check out the WSJ Law Blog, for news of staff cuts at Bingham McCutchen.
Bingham McCutchen Lays Off 10 Staff Members [WSJ Law Blog]
Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Kaye Scholer Lays Off Five Secretaries
[UPDATE on 04.03.09: Case dismissed.]
Paralegal-ing is a rough gig. Paralegals tend to get the legal drudgery similar to that done by first year associates, without the six-figure paycheck. And if you’re a paralegal for Richard Laminack, a titan of the Texas plaintiffs’ bar, you may also be asked to receive unwanted advances, fellate expert witnesses, and help defraud clients.
The American Lawyer reports on paralegal Angela Robinson’s complaint (PDF), filed against Laminack and the two firms at which she worked for him. (We have to wonder why she followed him to the second firm despite the workplace horrors. Cf. Anita Hill.)
Here’s a choice excerpt, available in full after the jump:
That is certainly above and beyond the paralegal call of duty.
The website of Laminack, Pirtle & Martines says that it’s their “honor and priveledge [sic]” to represent clients. And defraud them? According to Robinson’s complaint, Laminack “ordered checks on non-existent medical records for Fen-Phen clients and then docked the cost of the records checks from the clients’ settlement shares.”
(What is it with Fen-Phen lawyers and cheating clients? The WSJ Law Blog had extensive coverage of the Kentucky attorneys accused of bilking their Fen-Phen clients out of millions.)
Robinson put up with the sexual harassment for years; she alleges she was terminated when she confronted Laminack about the Fen-Phen scheme. She wants $55,000 for wrongful termination and back pay. A longer version of the salacious bits of her complaint, after the jump.