The Biglaw on-campus recruiting season is a subject of decreasing relevance for most aspiring lawyers, as illustrated by this grim infographic. We are all familiar with the parade of horribles that is the law firm recruitment market, at least from the student point of view. Since the halcyon days of 2007, summer associate class sizes are down at the overwhelming majority of large law firms, often by fifty percent or more. And of course nobody is seriously arguing that class sizes will ever rebound to their pre-recession levels. But 50 percent is not 100 percent; there are still 2Ls who have just made their way through the OCI cattle call.
About a month back, we asked our readers to share their experiences of the OCI process. We wanted to learn where student priorities fall during this era of “New Normal.” For those of you fortunate enough to be in a position to choose among employers, what are the factors driving your decisions? What, if anything, is likely to make you reject an offer? And what, in this unbalanced buyers’ market for legal talent, is the actual interview experience like?
On Friday, we broke the news of Dewey & LeBoeuf issuing a WARN Act notice to its U.S. employees. As explained by the U.S. Department of Labor, the WARN law generally requires an employer “to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.”
We noted, however, that employees shouldn’t be lulled into complacency by the 60-day requirement. As Elie wrote, “Dewey employees shouldn’t expect to just show up to work every day until Independence Day. Remember, we’ve learned from the Heller dissolution and other firms’ dissolutions that things tend to happen very quickly.”
Very quickly indeed. We are now hearing reports that this Friday, May 11, will be the last day for an unknown number of D&L employees….
As usual with the fast-moving Dewey story, we have multiple UPDATES, including some from Tuesday morning, after the jump.
In case you haven’t noticed, things have been quiet on the law firm front. And that shouldn’t come as a surprise: it’s August.
Summer associate programs are largely over (although we still want to hear about fun events and offer rates). Many associates and partners are taking vacation (especially if they have children they want to spend time with before school starts again).
On the litigation side, courts are slow because many judges are away. On the corporate side, some deals have been put on hold due to the gyrating stock market and economic uncertainty. We seem to be turning into Europe, where a good chunk of the population takes vacation for a good chunk of August.
But we still have pockets of law firm news to report, here and there. Today’s dispatch comes from Schiff Hardin, which earlier this month announced an associate pay raise….
Stephan Addison (left) and Benjamin Butler (right)
We like to provide updates on lawyers we’ve covered in the past, just to close the loop and keep readers informed. For example, if a lawyer is accused of wrongdoing, we cover the allegations, and then the charges are dropped, we’d like to write about the clearing of that person’s name. (If you’re aware of such a situation, please email us.)
Sometimes attorneys are punished rather than exonerated, however. Today we bring you news about the Illinois bar’s disciplining of Stephan Addison and Benjamin Butler, both 2004 graduates of the University of Wisconsin Law School, whom we first wrote about back in 2007. The two were once associates at large law firms — Addison at Seyfarth Shaw, and Butler at Schiff Hardin. They left their firms after being accused of sexual assault, after a drunken three-way hook-up that went very, very wrong.
Richard Zachary is a solo practitioner in Chicago who has mixed it up with Biglaw many times in his career… and has come away unimpressed.
In a recent filing in Cook County Court, he vented about the shortcomings of the big firm lawyers he’s come up against. He’s currently representing an individual suing a corporation represented by Schiff Hardin. He describes an attorney there as follows:
Some paper-shuffling third-rater trying to camouflage his own culpability with defamatory rhetoric [who made me] realize that there are depths of chicanery to which some legal professionals will not hesitate to descend.
Richard Zachary is both irate and poetic, a wonderful combination.
The motion captures the frustration that solos experience in their clashes with Biglaw. More incensed turns of phrase, after the jump.
Earlier today, we wrote about Schiff Hardin sending a mass e-mail to its retired partners letting them know that they were being moved to temporary offices during a renovation of the firm’s Chicago office. The e-mail read as if the partners were not getting their own offices upon their return and were being asked to cut back their time at the office.
Schiff got in touch with us this afternoon with an update. Despite the language in the e-mail, in fact, all special partners will be getting their own offices when renovations are complete, according to Schiff’s spokesman. They just won’t be in the same offices as before. There will be no change in the partners’ status with the firm, he added.
Schiff’s spokesman could not explain why the e-mail read like a dismissal letter.
We’ve noticed in comment threads that many of you would like frequent commenter Partner Emeritus to retire. But he’s a persistent one. Perhaps frustrated readers should take a page from the book of Schiff Hardin.
The 400-attorney firm found an interesting way to get rid of its partners emeriti in the firm’s Chicago office. It will move its “special partners” to temporary offices while its main building is being renovated, and then not move them back.
UPDATE: It appears there was a misunderstanding. A clarification from the firm appears here.
The firm notified its retired partners, referred to as “special partners,” on Sunday. And not in a very nice way. They got the message via mass e-mail:
Dear Special Partners,
As you know, we are about embark upon the renovation of our space in Chicago. We will move to temporary space two floors at a time and then return to our improved floors. We will use this opportunity to reshuffle offices
Some of you have volunteered to move offices when we return to the renovated space. I have not, however, had an opportunity to speak with all of you about this topic. With one exception, you will not be returning to your present office.
The mass e-mail that Schiff Hardin’s (not-so special?) partners emeriti got, plus a clarification from the firm, after the jump.
Ronald S. Safer, managing partner of Schiff Hardin, emailed associates last week about all of the cost cutting measures the firm was undertaking to preserve associate jobs.
The memo starts with the words every associate is looking for:
I know you have read with interest, and undoubtedly some trepidation, the news of law firms slashing personnel, lawyers and staff alike. We have no intention of following that lead. We do not part with our most valuable assets – our people – lightly.
You’d think that with that kind of opening most Schiff associates would have to change their pants before they could continue reading the memo.
Sadly, the tone of the memo changes pretty quickly:
Nor are we immune from the economic downturn. Our clients are affected by the credit crunch and decreased activity in almost all sectors of the economy, and our success is aligned with theirs. Nonetheless, our business model is sound. Unlike some of our competitors, our practices are diverse. We have grown within our means. We have no long-term debt. We have focused our efforts on strategic planning to grow our business. We are well-positioned to weather this storm and thrive as we have for over 140 years.
Whenever a firm announces the absence of “long-term debt,” you can be sure that bad things are about to happen for its employees. It’s like an owner giving his manager a “vote of confidence.”
After the jump, we get into just what Schiff is cutting.
The evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
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 six years. You can reach them by email: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.