Start Dates

Red Cross public interest deferral stipend.JPGAs we mentioned earlier today, there is significant variation among firms offering some sort of deferral stipend or public interest externship. Should the money from the firm be contingent upon finding employment in a public interest organization? Should it be paid out monthly or up front? And of course, how much money is on the table.

The difficulty facing firms — and incoming associates who thought they had jobs lined up for the fall — is that management is trying to make the rules up as they go along. Law firms want to be competitive with peer institutions, but each firm has its own bottom line that can’t be ignored.

At the same time, public interest organizations are flush with resumes of highly qualified people who can work for free. But they must also be concerned with the fact that these new recruits likely never wanted to do any public interest work, and will be desperate to go back to their Biglaw jobs (if available) in a year’s time.

And there are still so many options that have not been tried. As one tipster pointed out to us today:

Wouldn’t this be a good time for all these young lawyers to take two years off to serve their country.

You can’t get more “public interest” than serving your country. And if patriotism doesn’t motivate you, just think about how “JAG Corps” will look on your resume when this recession is all over. We’re living in a bizzaro “Hey, you never know” kind of world.

These are all complicated issues, and all of the players seem to be doing the best they can with them. After the jump, we take a look at Ropes & Gray, which is trying to balance the new issues associated with its “new alternatives” program.

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Ballard Spahr logo.JPGAbove the Law has been able to confirm that Ballard Spahr has officially pushed back start dates for its incoming first year associates. A tipster summarizes the details:

On Friday Ballard Spahr told its incoming class that it is delaying start dates until September 2010. There will be a $45,000 stipend offered…. The firm claims it will try to help the incoming associates find these jobs.

We understand that the $45K is in addition to the standard $5K bar stipend the firm traditionally offers.

The firm will not cover health care directly, but there will be a $5,500 Health Benefit Stipend as well.

Getting the money is contingent upon finding a job, but the firm is not limiting the work to public interest legal work. Incoming first years are encouraged to find employment at host of places, doing legal or non-legal work in certain circumstances.

Somebody get Habitat for Humanity on the phone.

In other news, the firm is also shortening the length of its summer program to seven weeks.

This news might be depressing to some law students that have already signed up for Ballard Spahr, but not the ones who were choosing between Ballard and Wolf Block.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of start dates

Nationwide Dissolution Watch: WolfBlock

Dewey LeBoeuf logo D&L DL Above the Law blog.jpgIncoming first years all over the country continue to find out that they won’t be able to start when they had hoped.

Dewey & LeBoeuf officially pushed back start dates for its new associates until January, 2010. The email went out last night:

After careful consideration, the firm’s Executive Committee has decided to delay the start of the first year associate class from fall 2009 to January 11, 2010. Our hope is that by postponing the start date for your class, workflows will have increased across our practices and we will be able to give you challenging assignments from day one.

Dewey emphasizes that just because you can’t start working at Dewey this fall, it doesn’t mean that you can’t start working as soon as you want:

For those of you who would like to start your career in the fall, you may wish to apply for a Community Service Fellowship. You recently received details on the firm’s fellowship program from [Redacted]. Those selected for a fellowship will be able to start with the firm, on secondment to a public service organization, as early as September 2009.

Above the Law has also received the details of the Dewey’s fellowship program. For those accepted into the program, the firm will pay up to $80,000 for associates to not work at Dewey for a whole year. But while the firm says that associates taking a fellowship are still “start[ing] with the firm,” it is not at all clear that associates will advance a class year upon completing the fellowship.

Those taking a fellowship will receive an extra $5,000 from Dewey to tide them over until January.

After the jump, take a look at what Debevoise is doing.

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Hunton Williams logo.JPGWe love to point out when our commenters point us in the right direction. Over the weekend, somebody placed this comment in the recent Law Shucks post:

Hunton & Williams is planning big layoff in week ahead. The firm has been laying off PARTNERS in stealth moves during the past two months and a firm-wide meeting is scheduled for this week. Expect big staff cuts since those attorneys are no longer around.

In response, one of our tipsters did some checking:

Saw a comment under the law shucks story that Hunton was having a firm-wide meeting this week. Came in and checked today, [rooms have been reserved] by Human Resources from 11:30 to 1:00…. on Friday.

Hunton & Williams did not respond to our requests for comment. But there are a lot of issues that the firm might choose to address this coming Friday.

We’ll get into our other tipsters’ reports after the jump.

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Troutman Sanders logo.jpgYes, we live in a world where any firm wide meeting has to be greeted with a sense of “oh, crap.” But that doesn’t mean we can’t still hold out hope that one of these meetings will end up being completely benign.

We just received word that Troutman Sanders has scheduled an all staff meeting for 2:00 p.m. EDT today. Conference rooms have been booked at all of the firm’s offices. The purpose of the meeting was announced via firm-wide email:

Bob Webb is holding a meeting today for all of the US Firm’s staff employees to discuss a very important matter. Your attendance at this meeting is requested and we appreciate if you would adjust your schedules in order to attend. Thank you.

We collect some of our other Troutman tips, and an update about an all associates meeting, after the jump.

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ropes gray logo.JPGRopes & Gray is locked in a fierce battle with Davis Polk in our ATL Bracket (remember, voting doesn’t close until Sunday). I’m not sure if this latest news helps or hurts their chances.

Ropes isn’t laying anybody off, but it is deferring the start dates for its incoming first year associates. The firm informed 3Ls today that their start has been pushed back to January, 2010.

But that is not all. All Ropes is taking alternative steps to deal with the challenging market. According to a firm wide email that just went out:

In response, we are rolling out a program that offers all associates non-traditional opportunities for continued professional and personal development both outside and inside the firm…. The program comprises the following initiatives, all of which are described in greater detail on a new infoNet area that you can access [Redacted]

* Public interest fellowship opportunities–including both practice of law work and non-practice of law work.

* Sabbatical opportunities.

* Enhanced access to potentially non-billable training and development assignments, and credit towards our 1900 hour target for certain training activities on client matters even though they are not billed to clients.

* Deferred start for the incoming class of 2009 to early January 2010 (this is being communicated to the incoming class in a separate memo).

The memo doesn’t mention what kind of stipend is available to Ropes associates that take the “alternative” path towards career development.

Just like with Skadden’s expansion of the Sidebar program, we don’t know what will happen if Ropes associates choose to stay the course at the firm and ride out the tough times. But this plan at least gives people the option of doing something while work is slow.

Read the full memo after the jump.

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blank rome summers no offers.jpgIt’s one of those days. We told you that we expected Blank Rome layoffs to come today. And here they come.

Blank Rome just confirmed that it has laid off 79 people: 27 associates, 52 staff.

And that’s not all. The firm is pushing back start dates for incoming first year associates until “at least” January 2010. No word on whether there will be any kind of extra money for those not-quite-yet first years.

But wait, there’s more. Blank Rome will also be scaling back its 2009 summer program from ten weeks to six.

I know that Friday the 13th is supposed to be a bad luck day, but honestly somebody needs to make a Saw-style movie about Thursday the 12th.

Read the full statement after the jump.

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Back in January, we noted a trend in firms pushing back start dates for 2009 incoming associates. At that time, Clifford Chance and Milbank Tweed had pushed back to late October, and Morrison & Foerster had pushed back to November. Since then though, firms have been pushing back even further.

To name a few: Hogan & Hartson – November 30, 2009; O’Melveny and Latham – December 2009 (though Latham is also offering an October 2010 option); Nixon Peabody, Chadbourne & Parke, and Venable – January 2010; and Morgan Lewis – October 2010. White and Case is offering November 2009 to some, but 2010 to most.

And now, influential Cravath is joining the pushback party, reports AmLaw Daily:

First-years will have their choice of start dates: October, November or January. The start dates will fill up on a first-come, first-serve basis, meaning if you want to start in October, you better let the firm know soon.

As we’ve said before, it makes sense for firms to delay start dates for incoming associates, since work is already slow for their current associates. But one ATL reader begs firms to go ahead and make up their minds about start dates ASAP:

Can you please tell the law firms that while 3Ls don’t want deferred start dates, the firm that announces last screws their 3Ls the most. If we don’t find out soon we won’t be able to get into LLM programs or paid public interest work.

So, 3Ls, don’t sign leases in your new city just yet. And firms, if you plan to push back start dates for incoming associates, bite the bullet and do it. And feel free to send the memo our way while you’re at it ([email protected]).

Cravath Joins Delayed Start Date Party [American Lawyer]

Earlier: Prior ATL Nationwide Start Date Watch coverage

Nationwide Start Date Watch: Longer summers for new associates in 2009?

omelveny logo.JPGAfter Latham laid off 440 people, the firm announced that they would be offering a deferral stipend to incoming first year associates. Latham offered $75,000 to people wiling to defer their start date until the fall of 2010. When Orrick laid off 300 people, the firm also offered $75K to associates willing to delay for a year.

When O’Melveny laid off 200 people yesterday, there was no mention of any deferral plan. The firm’s silence caused a lot of worry among 3Ls heading to O’Melveny.

Some 3Ls called the firm. Recruiting personnel told them: “We haven’t decided that yet,” and “It’s not likely.”

So what kind of stipend can 3Ls expect from O’Melveny? The firm responds after the jump.

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kirkland ellis logo.JPGTroubling rumors are circulating about Chicago-based Kirkland & Ellis. Tipsters say that: (1) layoffs are happening in the firm’s New York office, and (2) the start date for incoming associates is being pushed back to the end of the year.

The firm laid off 15 to 25 non-equity partners in January. Now it appears to be moving on to associates. A source says the firm started conducting layoffs of mid-levels in its New York office on Wednesday, and that they are still going on, writing this morning:

The layoffs are continuing today (mostly in the litigation and private equity departments). I’m not sure about the veracity of this, but I also heard that K&E’s NYC litigation department lost one or two big clients because they refused to lower their fees.

The firm spokesperson has not responded to our inquiries. If you have more information, please contribute to the comments, or send us a tip.

We’re also hearing that start dates for incoming associates at the firm have not been announced yet, but one 3L bound for Kirkland has gotten news that the start date will be December 2009 at the earliest.

Was told in writing that I won’t be starting until the end of the year for sure, and they left open pushing it back even further…. Guess my loans will have to wait….

Update: A 3L bound for Kirkland’s D.C. office questions the report of delayed start dates:

I am a graduating 3L that will be starting in the fall at Kirkland’s D.C. office. When I accepted the offer, K&E told me I would hear back in the spring about start dates, bar expenses, etc. I am not sure what 3L can have a “letter in hand” about start dates, I have not received any start date information, nor has a fellow incoming K&E associate whom I just asked.

A round-up of the firms that have pushed back start dates, after the jump.

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