Bruce Stachenfeld

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft new logo CWT AboveTheLaw blog.jpgIn case you missed the big news, last week Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft laid off 96 lawyers. This is, as far as we know, the largest lawyer layoff of the current economic cycle.

When combined with the January layoffs, which hit around 35 lawyers, CWT has axed upwards of 130 attorneys. This makes it “America’s firingest law firm.” (We can’t claim credit for that turn of phrase, which was coined by a tipster, but we will try to popularize it through frequent usage.)

As we reported earlier this week, résumés from Cadwalader refugees are flooding the market. But will they find a welcome reception?

Maybe not. Here’s an email that a boutique law firm in New York sent to a legal recruiter who tried to submit CWT résumés for an opening:

CORRECTION: Actually, the email was sent to the recruiter UNSOLICITED, not in response to anything. It was apparently sent, out of the blue, to a group of legal recruiters.

Sent: Tuesday, August 05, 2008
To: [Legal Recruiter]
Subject: FW: Resumes

Good Afternoon,

Thank you for staying in touch with our firm. Please note that we are not going to be accepting resumes for Cadwalader candidates.

Thank you,
[Recruiting Contact]
Duval & Stachenfeld | 300 East 42nd Street New York NY 10017

Ouch. Are Cadwalader lawyers now the Untouchables of the law-firm caste system?

Note that this slap in the face comes from Duval & Stachenfeld LLP, which is far from snobby in its hiring practices. It draws heavily from non-top-tier law schools and pays $60,000 starting salaries to its associates.

(It should be noted, however, that the Duval firm is more elitist when it comes to its lateral hiring. As discussed here, for entry-level hiring, the firm looks well beyond the top-tier law schools. But for midlevel and senior associates, it tends to poach from the Skaddens and Lathams of the world — and pay accordingly.)

P.S. For a more upbeat take on Cadwalader, see Ashby Jones’s Legal Beat column in the Wall Street Journal (via the WSJ Law Blog).

UPDATE / CLARIFICATION: We have received a letter from Bruce Stachenfeld, founding partner of Duval & Stachenfeld, clarifying the situation. An excerpt:

When I (the managing partner of D&S) heard about the CWT layoff news my immediate reaction was that I felt very bad for my friends at CWT. It is a great firm suffering from some market turmoil and all of us running law firms know that adverse market forces can happen to any of us.

My other reaction was that since we are hiring junior lawyers a possible win/win/win would be for us to talk to CWT directly about whether we could hire some of their adversely affected people. This would permit us to find some super-star-high-quality associates – would permit CWT to help its people locate new jobs – and would permit some of the adversely affected associates to get new jobs promptly.

So I did the logical thing and contacted one of my friends at CWT to discuss this. After my discussion I sent a letter to be sent to some of the associates who had the requisite background to fit into our real estate group. It remains to be seen if we will end up hiring CWT associates. My hope is yes.

Since resumes had started to come in (through legal recruiters) I instructed our recruitment coordinator to inform legal recruiters that I would not be accepting resumes through legal recruiters due to our close relationship with CWT. I thought it appropriate to let the legal recruiters know this promptly to avoid misunderstandings with them about recruitment fees.

You can read the full letter after the jump.

Never heard of Duval & Stachenfeld? Well, that’s about to change, thanks to the firm’s innovative approach to associate compensation, which is getting some media mentions. From an article by Kellie Schmitt in The Recorder:

The 50-lawyer firm, based in New York but with a small L.A. office, starts first-year associates at $60,000 — or $100,000 below the starting salary at many Am Law 100 firms.

Mid-year and senior associates, however, are promised the same total pay — or more — that they’d earn at Latham & Watkins or Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

For third-years on up, the firm says it checks what top New York firms like Cravath, Swaine & Moore are paying in base salary and bonuses, and matches that. Last year, the firm added a $10,000 sweetener.

So what exactly is the point of this unusual system?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Attention Tier Two Grads: Duval & Stachenfeld Wants You”