A female associate at a large law firm recently sent us a message along these lines (we’ve tweaked and paraphrased her original email in places):
In these tough economic times, people are (1) having trouble finding jobs as they come out of law school, (2) recently laid-off, or (3) miserable in the jobs they still have, given how low morale is and how many hours they’re expected to work now (given the “be grateful for your job” mentality).
People in such situations are often unable to make a change, given how few jobs there are out there and how much competition there is for them. But they’re scared to just up and quit, because very few employers would actually buy that they had resigned and not been fired.
What’s a girl to do? Make babies. That’s what.
Making the case for making babies, after the jump.
[O]ur winning firms have more lawyers working reduced hours (8 percent versus 5 percent nationwide) and also employ more female equity partners, who share in their firm’s profits (20 percent versus 16 percent nationwide)–and that’s just for starters. We salute these firms for recognizing that making the legal profession work for women is good business for everyone.
Stroking of breasts can (eventually) culminate in pregnancy. But, as far as we know, the breaststroke can’t.
Magdalena Kwiatkowska might disagree. She’s filing a lawsuit because her teenage daughter became pregnant during a recent trip to Egypt. From the Daily Mail (via Transracial):
A mother is suing a hotel claiming her teenage daughter fell pregnant simply from using a hotel swimming pool.
Magdalena Kwiatkowska says the 13-year-old conceived after coming into contact with ‘stray sperm’ in the water of an Egyptian resort.
If you’re sick and tired of paternity tests on every episode of Maury Povich, join the club — the baby mamas club, that is. In a decision by the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, the court ruled that the trial court’s use of the term “baby mama,” along with other comments about the African-American defendant’s habits, could lead to the reasonable perception that the defendant’s sentence was impermissibly influenced by race.
A quick review of the exchange between the trial court and the defendant reveals that the trial court judge (the Honorable Joseph Wall) is a jerk. But damned if he isn’t a hilarious one:
THE COURT: Where are you working now? THE DEFENDANT: I’m unemployed right now. THE COURT: You’re unemployed still? THE DEFENDANT: Yes. THE COURT: Have you gotten a job since January? THE DEFENDANT: No, sir. THE COURT: You’re kidding. THE DEFENDANT: No. THE COURT: What do you do all day? THE DEFENDANT: I just stay at home with my daughter and that’s it. THE COURT: Where is her mother? THE DEFENDANT: At work. THE COURT: So the mother works and you sit at home, right? THE DEFENDANT: Yeah. THE COURT: And watch the child? THE DEFENDANT: I got all types of things goin’. My personal family. THE COURT: Where does the baby’s mama work? THE DEFENDANT: Metro Market. THE COURT: Did she finish school? THE DEFENDANT: Yes. THE COURT: Is she going to college, too? THE DEFENDANT: Yes. THE COURT: Where do you guys find these women, really, seriously. I’d say about every fourth man who comes in here unemployed, no education, is with a woman who is working full-time, going to school. Where do you find these women? Is there a club? THE DEFENDANT: No.
Finally, the moment you’ve all been waiting for: time to announce Above the Law’s top two stories for 2008, on the gossip front. We’ve also been recapping the top stories on the business side of the fence, but stories about the business of law are available from many other outlets. Juicy law firm gossip is harder to come by.
Our two leading gossip stories were broken here at ATL. They were subsequently picked up by mainstream media outlets, but we covered them first.
We will now announce what we view as the year’s ten biggest stories in law-firm land. We’ve divided them into two groups: the top five stories on the business side, and the top five stories on the gossip side. Collectively these stories reflect the combination of edification and entertainment that we seek to provide here at ATL. We’ll start with the #5 stories in each group and work our way up.
The year that’s about to end has been full of “business and the law” stories. Most of the news has been terrible. But it really hasn’t been all doom and gloom.
Our fifth-place story on the business end of the legal industry is objectively positive news. Read about it after the jump.
If you’re tired of reading about Shinyung Oh, the former Paul Hastings associate who sent a now-famous farewell email, fear not. The story is on its last legs.
We just wanted to tie up a loose end. Earlier this week, we wondered about whether she was still at Paul Hastings. Here’s the answer, courtesy of Shinyung Oh herself:
I’m no longer with Paul Hastings. Because I didn’t sign the release, my termination was effective as of sometime last week. If I had signed the release, I would have technically stayed on (on an inactive basis) until the end of July.
We wish Shinyung the best of luck in her future endeavors.
We also contacted the firm for comment; they had none. (An aside: Contrary to what some folks apparently think, we welcome hearing from the law firms that we write about. We often reach out to them for comment, especially on sensitive items, but they should also feel free to contact us sua sponte.)
One final thing. In the comments on our various Paul Hastings posts, there was occasionally a “piling on” quality, with lots of commenters lambasting PH (and some attacking Shinyung Oh as well).
But the comments are not necessarily representative of the ATL readership at large. Please take our two quick polls. Feel free to take whatever considerations you want into account when casting your vote (i.e., the polls aren’t based solely on the recent controversy).
This is, like, WOW. We don’t quite know what to say.
This departure memo, sent by an associate leaving the San Francisco office of Paul Hastings, is extraordinary. It also confirms the rumors — which have swirled about for quite some time, but without confirmation until now — of associate layoffs at PH.
We’re reaching out for comment to the associate in question and to Paul Hastings. But we wanted to put this up ASAP, to break the story first.
Farewell email below (with a handful of minor typos corrected). “Transition Agreement and General Release,” after the jump.
Sent: Monday, May 05, 2008 10:14 AM
Subject: My departure
The circumstances surrounding my departure from Paul Hastings have been deeply disappointing. It is one thing to ignore an email sent as a colleague is waiting to have her uterus scraped after a miscarriage, but it is wholly another level of heartlessness to lay her off six days after that. [Partner X] is the only one who expressed any sympathy after my miscarriage, and I am grateful to him for that.
A business is a business, but it takes very little to convey some level of humanity to carry out even the most difficult business decisions. We are human beings first before we are partners or associates. Had you simply explained that the department is unable to sustain the number of associates in the office, I would have completely understood. Had you explained that the office had been directed to reduce the number of associates and I was chosen because of my high billable rate and low billable hours, I would have appreciated such directness, even though the consequences of blindly raising billable rates to an unsustainable degree is plainly predictable. What I do not understand is the attempt to blame the associate for not bringing in the business that should have been brought in by each of you and to hide your personal failures by attempting to tarnish my excellent performance record and looking to undermine my sense of self esteem.
The last few months have been surreal, at best. Just last year, I had celebrated my engagement and marriage with many of you. In fact, during the engagement party, the head of the department took my then-fiancée aside to express to him what a great attorney I am and what a great future I faced. Indeed, less than a week before this year’s bizarre performance review, I was again told by the same partner that my work is great and that the slow business in no way reflected on my performance. A week later, I was given a mediocre performance review and told that I should worry about whether I have a future at Paul Hastings. When I asked for specific examples of my alleged deficiencies, I received no response. When I asked for an explanation as to why I had been downgraded in so many performance categories when I received absolutely no criticism throughout the year and my prior year’s review was stellar, I was told that my prior year’s performance assessment may have been “over-inflated.” What a startling response.
After my miscarriage, I had discussed my concern with several associates that Paul Hastings may use that opportunity to lay me off quickly before I have a chance to get pregnant again. Those associates thought it unfathomable that a firm would be so callous and assured me that Paul Hastings isn’t that kind of a place. What a lesson this has been for them – and for me. I would not have anticipated that a partner would tell me one thing and completely renege on his words a week later. I would not have anticipated that a female partner (whom I had looked to as a role model) with children of her own would sit stone faced as I broke into tears just days after my miscarriage. Even a few words of sympathy or concern would have made a world of difference. What kind of people squander human relationships so easily?
If this response seems particularly emotional, perhaps an associate’s emotional vulnerability after a recent miscarriage is a factor you should consider the next time you fire or lay someone off. It shows startlingly poor judgment and management skills — and cowardice — on your parts. If you should ever have the misfortune of suddenly losing something or someone precious to you, I hope you don’t find similar heartlessness as I have.
As for your request for a release, non-disclosure, and non-disparagement agreement in return for three months’ pay, I reject it. Unlike you, I am not just a paid mouthpiece with no independent judgment. I will decide how and to whom to communicate how you have treated me. I find it ironic that you would try to buy the right not to be disparaged after behaving as you have. Your actions speak volumes, and you don’t need much help from me in damaging your reputation.
I attach the proposed release for any associate who may be interested in reviewing its details.
And that’s all she wrote. The release that Paul Hastings wanted this associate to sign, after the jump.
Update (5:10 PM): We have heard back from the associate in question, who had no additional comment.
Update (8:20 PM): Previously posted in the comments, but now we can bring it up to the main page. Here is Paul Hastings’s statement, from Eileen King, Global Director of Public Relations:
“We disagree with the person’s description of what occurred, but unfortunately we don’t comment on internal employment matters.”
Update (5/6/08): Blog reactions to this story are collected here. Additional discussion of pregnancy discrimination cases appears here. Lawyer layoffs at Paul Hastings are covered here.
Further Update (5/9/08): The author of the email, Shinyung Oh, has gone public and given an interview. See here.
A few more firms have joined the 18 Week Club. New and improved parental leave policies, from WilmerHale and O’Melveny & Myers, appear after the jump.
We admit we can be a little idiosyncratic in terms of which firms’ announcements we highlight. For more comprehensive information, check out Justin Bernold’s handy-dandy, continually updated tables of maternity leave and paternity leave policies at different firms.
Despite the recent turmoil in the economy and the stock market, all appears to be well at Milbank Tweed Hadley McCloy. A tipster provided us with the highlights of chairman Mel Immergut’s “State of the Firm” address from last week:
1. Primary caregiver leave is now 18 weeks paid.
2. Blackberries will get replaced every two years instead of three.
3. “We’re not getting fired.”
It appears that Milbank has effectively made a “no layoffs” promise. It learned that lesson the hard way:
Mel stressed that in the last downturn, they had slowed hiring, and then found themselves at a loss for mid-level associates when things picked up later. So the plan is to continue to hire new people (our summer program is the largest to date at 100+) and retain, but not really hire laterals.
Will other firms make a similar pledge? We’ll see.
If you are considering a virtual law practice, you know that many of today’s solo firms started that way. But why are established, multi-attorney law firms going virtual?
Many small firms are successfully moving part—or even all—of their practice to a virtual setting. This even includes multi-jurisdictional practice spanning several states and practice areas, although solo and small partnerships are still the largest adopters of virtual law.
Can you do the same? The new article Mobile in Practice, Virtual by Design from author Jared Correia, Esq., explores how mobile technology bring real-life benefits to a small law firm. Read this new article—the next in Thomson Reuters’ Independent Thinking series for small firms—to explore how a mobile practice:
Reduces malpractice risk
Enables you to gather the best attorneys to fit the firm, regardless of each person’s geographic location
Leverages mobile devices and cloud technology to enable on-the-spot client and prospect communication
Transitioning in-house is something many (if not most) firm lawyers find themselves considering at some point. For many, it’s the first step in their career that isn’t simply a function of picking the best option available based on a ranking system.
Unknown territory feels high-risk, and can have the effect of steering many of us towards the well-greased channels into large, established companies.
For those who may be open to something more entrepreneurial, there is far less information available. No recruiter is calling every week with offers and details.
In sponsorship with Betterment, ATL and David Lat will moderate a panel about life in-house and we’ll hear from GCs at Birchbox, Gawker Media, Squarespace, Bonobos, and Betterment. Drinks, snacks, networking, and a great time guaranteed. Invite your colleagues, but RSVP fast, as space is limited.
Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
It’s that time of year again when JDs are starting to apply for 2L summer jobs and 2L summers are deciding which practice area to focus on.
For those JDs with an interest in potentially lateraling to or transferring to Asia in the future, please feel free to reach out to Kinney for advice on firm choices, interviewing and practice choices, relating to future marketability in Asia, or for a general discussion on your particular Asia markets of interest. This is of course a free of cost service for those who some years in the future may be our future industry contacts or perhaps even clients.
For some years now Kinney’s Asia head, Evan Jowers, has been formally advising Harvard Law students with such questions, as the Asia expert in Harvard Law’s “Ask The Experts Market Program” each summer and fall, with podcasts and scheduled phone calls. This has been an enjoyable and productive experience for all involved.