Unlike many of the firms that have laid off people this month, Pillsbury left open the question of what would happen with its incoming first years. It’s been over a week now, and still no word from the firm. A tipster reports:
Last week when the layoffs happened, PWSP had a town hall meeting … a few associates asked what they would be doing about incoming first years. They said they weren’t sure. The associates said it would probably be nice if they let us know, so we can plan our lives, apply for other work, higher education etc.
On the one hand, after the firm’s infamous Acela gaffe, it makes sense if Pillsbury gets all of its ducks in a row before it tells first years when (if ever) they can start.
But with associates at Latham, Orrick, a host of other firms, and maybe even Skadden already
competing for the public interest jobs, it would be good if Pillsbury could share some more information with its incoming associates.
As we told you yesterday, Pillsbury management had booked a few conference rooms today to let people know the state of the firm’s layoff plans. The firm promised to release the numbers of associates who took the voluntary departure program.
It doesn’t look like the firm has released the splits (between voluntary and involuntary) but we do know the overall number of people Pillsbury is looking to lay off:
55 associates, 10 paralegals, 90 staffers.
Once again, it looks like all of the partners, even the loud ones, have been spared.
We understand that 55 associates represent about 14% of Pillsbury’s total associate complement.
Again, the firm has not yet released the breakdown between associates that will be laid off involuntarily, versus the associates that accepted the voluntary departure offer. Of course, a tipster tells us:
I don’t know of any attorneys that took it.
Neither do we.
Update (12:17): After the jump, we have the full text of Pillsbury’s layoff memo.
A week ago, we brought you news about Pillsbury’s “Voluntary Departure Program.” The firm adopted the program after partner Robert Robbins announced the firm’s impending layoffs on the Acela last month.
On Tuesday, Pillsbury informed associates who requested voluntary departure if they had been accepted. We don’t yet have the numbers for how many people decided to go quietly.
But we do have the official Pillsbury FAQ for people who inquired about the program. The seven page document contains some very interesting nuggets. Below, we paste the top line points:
Shouldn’t everybody who was employed throughout 2008 receive the 2008 bonus, regardless of what happens to them in 2009?
In any event, it looks like Pillsbury is moving full speed ahead with the “involuntary” part of the plan. All aboard after the jump.
I’m a third year associate (in M&A) at one of the firms that is offering a voluntary severance package to those associates willing to take it. As you guys reported, there are layoffs in store anyway, but the firm will not divulge the amount of severance they will be paying for those who they are planning to lay off. My hours are as high as they can be given the work available and I don’t have any sense one way or another from the partners if they’re planning to can me. Do you have an opinion on whether I should take the voluntary severance?
Dead Man Walking
Dear Dead Man Walking,
For the sake of argument, I’m going to assume you’re referring to Pillsbury’s lofty-sounding Voluntary Departure Plan. Somewhere along the line it appears that Pillsbury got confused as to whether it was asking associates for their necks or running an elite Masonic Lodge, because under the terms of the program, you can’t just tell Pillsbury that you’ll take their three months offer and scram. Instead, interested attorneys must “express interest” and then “state their desire to be included,” by rapping thrice on the door to HR and uttering the phrase: “A Man, A Plan, A Canal: Panama.” High-ranking firm members will then confirm or nullify the applications for membership.
No doubt your firm believes that giving associates a illusory “choice” is a glorious act of munificence, but the choice they’re posing is really no different than those posed by the Inquisitors to the Cathars or by the English to William Wallace: convert or be killed, confess or die, quit or be fired. If you take the buyout, you might not have been fired otherwise. If you don’t take the buyout, you may be fired anyway and get less severance. And the worst possible scenario: you may apply for the buyout, GET REJECTED, and then have to explain to colleagues that that you were fired from being fired.
Based on the limited facts, I would take the money and run. Third-years in corporate are like lambs for the slaughter. Plus, this whole ridiculous “program” sounds like a convenient excuse to provide garbage severance to laid off associates under the guise of “but we offered you a buyout!”
Only you know all the factors: your work quality, your hours, your horoscope. In the words of Anton Chigurh, “You need to call it. I can’t call it for you. It wouldn’t be fair.”
Elie plays the role of Marius Pontmercy in tonight’s performance, after the jump.
Last week, Pillsbury was busy throwing mama from the train. But underneath the layoff news, the firm instituted other cost cutting measures. On Tuesday, Pillsbury decided to freeze salaries.
Pillsbury is one of the firms with a two tiered associate payscale. A tipster reports that a number of Pillsbury associates were already receiving below market pay, before last week’s freeze:
[I]n June of 2007, Pillsbury decided to meet the Biglaw salary raises that occurred at the time (albeit they were a later mover on the raise issue). However, they also said in June 2007 that new requirements were tied to the salary increases. Departing with prior firm practice, any associate who did not meet a minimum of 1800 billable hours for 2007 would be advanced in class year, and would be advanced in their billing rate, but would be “held back” in salary step increases.
The 2007 policy was made less onerous because there was an easy way for associates to make that money back in 2008:
If the associate that was “held back” in pay for their 2007 numbers billed 1950 hours or above in 2008, they would (a) be advanced in class and salary to become equal again to their actual class year, and (b) would be given a “true up” bonus for 2008 whereby they would be paid the difference in salary they were supposed to be making during 2008, but did not because they were held back in terms of pay.
Pay plans made in 2007 are about as relevant as Adrien Brody standing on the same stage as Robert DeNiro and Anthony Hopkins. It’s nice for context, but painfully out of place given current standards.
After the jump, we look at what Pillsbury is doing now.
Time for a brief follow-up to our earlier post about Biglaw partner Robert Robbins, head of the corporate practice of Pillsbury Winthrop, and how he spoke — a little too loudly, on a crowded Acela train — about the firm’s planned layoffs. You may have already seen it in the comments, but in case it got lost in the shuffle, the firm has confirmed the gaffe (and the layoffs).
After getting its act together — the Pillsbury website was down for a while today, which some commenters attributed to web traffic resulting from the mini-scandal — the firm issued a statement to The Recorder (via Legal Pad):
It is an unfortunate fact in today’s economy that no business or law firm can rule out adjustments to their overall workforce levels. This includes Pillsbury, and, among other cost cutting measures, we will be implementing reductions to ensure that our resources are aligned with our business needs. We apologize for the unfortunate manner in which our deliberations about reductions have become public.
We reiterate our earlier advice: Pillsbury associates, start your engines laser printers, and crank out those résumés. It’s time to move on. Bob Robbins is coming for you.
We’ve collected selected links to coverage by other outlets — heck, it even made Gawker — of the “unfortunate” incident. Enjoy.
Law firm partners need to watch more Gossip Girl. If they did, they’d learn the perils of talking about private matters in public places. In the age of BlackBerrys, texting, and cameraphones, it’s ridiculously easy for tipsters to leak details of overheard conversations and not-so-secret rendezvous to their favorite online gossip girl (or boy — XOXO, Lat).
Last year, we wrote about a Thelen partner who was overheard discussing her firm’s layoffs on the subway. Last night, we received this information, from a law student traveling from D.C. to New York:
This afternoon I boarded a train from Washington bound for Penn Station…. I, along with all of the other passengers, were sitting quietly when the man directly behind me decided to make a phone call using his bluetooth. He was talking so loudly that I think most people in the car were able to hear him.
His conversation, though he stressed how necessary it was to be kept secret (ah, the irony), detailed the current plans of Pillsbury to lay off somewhere in the range of 15-20 attorneys from four offices by the end of March, including a few senior associates with low billable hours and two or three first-year associates. I wouldn’t have believed it except for the fact that he identified himself to the call as Bob Robbins, who I learned is the leader of the firm’s Corporate & Securities practice section, and was talking to Rick Donaldson, who I learned was COO. What’s more, he was NAMING NAMES over the phone!
After we expressed skepticism over this wild story, including the tipster’s ability to catch the names of both Robbins and Donaldson, we received this response:
I agree it’s pretty wild. I wasn’t trying to overhear, but I had no choice because of the proximity. The name “Robbins” I remembered because he said it so damn loud. I went to their website, and the picture [at right] was an exact match. He was big enough to fit almost two chairs.
“Donaldson” I didn’t remember as clearly. I remembered that it began with a “Do” and thought it was “Dotson,” but there was no “Dotson” on the site — just “Donaldson.” Also, he called him “Rick” a few times.
Says our source, in explaining the decision to tip off ATL:
Before today, I have never even considered posting on this website, but I was so mortified by my experience…. I’ve heard of attorneys being reprimanded for discussing client matters in an elevator. Where does airing your own firm’s dirty laundry on an express train fit on the list? I don’t know if there is a way that you can independently verify this, but if so, please do.
Every year, the National Law Journal names individual people and firms that have done outstanding pro bono work. This year perhaps more than others, it is especially important to recognize those that gave their time to charity. With the economy crumbling, there is a huge need for free legal services.
Eric Blinderman, international legal counsel to Proskauer Rose, had gone to Iraq in March 2004 as an associate general counsel for the Coalition Provisional Authority. Later, he served as chief legal counsel and associate deputy to the Regime Crimes Liaison. In 2007, Blinderman’s firm officially became a part of The List: Project to Resettle Iraqi Refugees, a nonprofit organization founded that year to help resettle Iraqis in danger because of their affiliation with the United States. Holland & Knight had already been collaborating with the project, and Mayer Brown signed on this year.
Firms nationwide were inspired by the historic 2008 presidential election to devote pro bono time to protecting access to the voting booth. Lawyers went to court in several states on voter access issues, most frequently to prevent a voting reform law, the Help America Vote Act, from becoming a barrier to the ballot. The law required states to match voter rolls with another database, usually the registry of driver licenses, to create a more accurate list of voters.
Read the full list of winners here. And please share your stories about other great pro bono acts in the comments.
I don’t believe everything I read on ATL’s comment boards, but often accurate information is posted by our readers. Monday, we told you that Pillsbury had acquired Thelen’s China practice group. One reader said:
Look for construction partners to start jumping ship by next week. You heard it here first.
The only thing wrong about that statement was the timing. Pillsbury released the following statement announcing additional new hires:
Michael Evan Jaffe and Ronan J. McHugh, two construction litigators from Thelen LLP, have joined Pillsbury’s Washington, DC office as partner and counsel respectively, advancing the firm’s ongoing expansion of its national litigation and international dispute practices.
In fact, Pillsbury seems quite proud about scavenging Thelen:
Jaffe and McHugh are the latest attorneys from Thelen to join Pillsbury’s litigation team. Earlier this week, it was announced that Shanghai litigation partner Meg Utterback, was joining the firm as part of Pillsbury’s acquisition of Thelen’s China practice.
How many cherries can Thelen lose before somebody chops them down for firewood?
Other (potentially prescient) commenters weigh in after the jump.
* President Bush wants lawmakers to hurry up and pass the $700 billion bailout plan. Sounds like taxpayers are going to be paying back those $600 economy stimulation rebates and then some. The Dems agree to drop the provision giving greater authority to bankruptcy judges. [New York Times]
* Democrats sue in Washington to force “G.O.P.” gubernatorial candidate to embrace his “Republican” identity. [New York Times]
Watch to find out what some of our subscribers received in their May box!
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
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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