As Justice Brandeis famously observed, “[s]unlight is said to be the best of disinfectants.” A certain amount of transparency keeps organizations honest and ethical. Alas, it seems that some law firms, like vampires, have a lower tolerance for sunlight than others.
In late August, we ran an offer rate open thread. There were over 550 comments, and some of the ones about WilmerHale were a little disturbing. They came to our attention when an individual weighing offers from WilmerHale and other top law firms sent us this message:
Could you follow up on all of the negative comments re: WilmerHale in your Summer Offer Rate Open Thread? I’m considering an offer from this firm, and there seem to be a ton of disgruntled associates there. The whole thing seems to center around an internal memo warning associates not to send tips to ATL. This deserves some investigation. Thanks for running an excellent blog.
So we took a closer look at the WH comments on the thread. Like this one:
The firm has made it abundantly clear that no one should provide tips to ATL or post comments. The clear message is that if caught, you’ll be fired. I, however, have already been “transitioned out”, so I have nothing to worry about other than feeding my family.
Didn’t you just love the scathing internal memo meant to scare the living &*^$ out of those who were even thinking about tipping ATL? Apparently it worked, because it didn’t end up here (though it should have). I guess the few that were spared from the bloodbath are shaking in their boots.
We haven’t received the memo itself — yet — but we certainly received an awful lot of detail about it.
More reactions to the memo, plus comment from the firm, after the jump.
We suppose it’s fitting that on Yom Kippur, when our Jewish friends are fasting at home, today’s Legal Eagle Wedding Watch is a total WASP-fest. (Last weekend was Rosh Hashanah, which explains the unusual dearth of Jewish nuptials in the NYT announcements.) We look forward to receiving plenty of tasteful feedback about how there are “too many gentiles” this week.
Here are your six finalists — all Biglaw associates, as it happens:
Let’s finish off the prestigious Vault 20. Here we have some firms on the rise, and some firms that are … not.
Here is the next batch of firms:
16. WilmerHale 17. Latham & Watkins 18. Arnold & Porter 19. Jones Day 20. White & Case
Okay, before we discuss Latham and White & Case, let’s give a good cheer for WilmerHale (up one spot from last year), Arnold & Porter (up two spots from last year), and Jones Day (up four spots from last year).
The Jones Day surge is particularly impressive. You’ll remember that the firm slammed its competitors earlier this month. But it seems like the firm is walking the walk as well as talking the talk.
After the jump, you know what happens next.
The current online front page of the NYT weddings section is worth a click. The head blurb leads with “Despite their differences in age . . . ” underneath a picture of a 20-something bride embracing a “groom” who appears to be about nine years old. “Differences in age,” indeed. Somebody alert Morality in Media! (Of course, when you click on the link, you learn that the real groom is 40-something. Still yucky, but not illegal.)
Our spotlighted weddings this week feature couples who are well-matched not only in age, but in accomplishments. Here they are:
Last month, the firm of WilmerHale denied that any layoffs have taken place at the firm. The accuracy of that statement depends on what the meaning of “layoff” is.
In an internal memo obtained by Above the Law, the firm acknowledges that “a very small number of individuals” have been asked to leave WH for economic reasons. The memo also notes that the performance review process “is affected by the reality of current economic conditions, as performance issues sometimes come to light more when business is slower.”
(This may constitute some welcome candor. Other firms try to claim, somewhat implausibly, that performance reviews are utterly unaffected by the economy, i.e., that associates are judged by the exact same standards as in boom times.)
Still, the knowledge that the economy contributed to one’s purportedly performance-based dismissal is cold comfort. From an affected associate at WilmerHale:
I was one of the ones that was cut for “performance” reasons. My evaluations were [several] pages long, single spaced — of accolades… with one half of one sentence that mentioned something I could improve on… from one partner out of [many] that evaluated me. I was let go based on that one phase, copied and pasted on the front of the eval…. Unlike the claim [in the memo] that the firm cannot give associates “three or four” chances to make improvements, I had never received a similar comment in the past.
Many partners were apparently left out of the process of deciding which associates to cut — and as a result have begun to “vent” to the associates that were cut about the process. We (as cut associates) actually had the incredibly uncomfortable task of informing partners that we worked with, who did not know we had been cut, that we were leaving. The resulting frustration of partners has led to a leak of a few tidbits of info on the numbers cut. The numbers floating around differ, but I’ve heard that between 10-15% of all associates firm wide were informed of their “transitions” over the past month. Apparently, another round may be coming in the fall.
Anxiety-inducing for current WilmerHale associates, but perhaps not a surprise. Expect a number of firms to trim their ranks after summer associates head back to school.
More discussion, plus the full memo, after the jump.
We’ll bottom-line this week’s contest, folks: The SCOTUS clerk wins. Yep, after a long absence, LEWW’s favorite credential makes a welcome appearance in the NYT weddings section, and we’ve got the details for you.
But first, congratulations to Sabrina Charles and Jamie Dycus, who readers overwhelmingly voted Legal Eagle Couple of the Month for May, demonstrating that — in the words of one commenter (and apparently, in the minds of ATL readers) — “Wachtell > Sotomayor > Olympic medal.”
Here are our finalists:
Another week, another NYT Vows column comparing the bride to a giant coniferous tree (“The bride stood stately and erect, echoing the Redwoods that surrounded them . . . “). Seriously, could they maybe assign Vows once a month to a real writer, just to make it a little less chirpy and insipid? What about Maureen Dowd? What about Paul Krugman?
Here are this week’s finalists, including the tree-like bride:
If you read Above the Law last week, you’ll know that it’s an interesting time at WilmerHale. The firm is transitioning associates onto the street to other opportunities. It’s also dealing with former associates who left to clerk and now want back in.
But the firm isn’t unconcerned about the terror snaking through its associate ranks. In fact, they’ve hired a “Chief Legal Talent Officer.” According to the firm wide announcement:
I am pleased to announce that Brad Scott, our new Chief Legal Talent Officer, has started with the Firm. We are fortunate to have attracted an individual with Brad’s qualifications. The Chief Legal Talent Officer role will be responsible for all aspects of the attorney lifecycle including associate recruiting and onboarding, promotion and compensation processes, professional development, mentoring and career development and diversity programs throughout the Firm.
Associate onboarding? What about associate offloading? We know that at some firms the person that fills this position doubles as the physical manifestation of the Grim Reaper. But maybe that won’t be Mr. Scott’s fate. A tipster quips:
Clearly WH is doing well if it can hire even more layers of management.
There has been a lot going on at WilmerHale recently. Summer associates are coming, regular associates are “transitioning.” The uncertainty has made some WilmerHale alumni who are currently clerking wonder if they can return to the firm when their clerkships end.
Above the Law has received reports from current clerks who were expecting to be hired back by WilmerHale after their clerkships are over. Some tipsters report that WilmerHale has decided not to rehire any of its former associates who took a year off to clerk. We know that many clerks are worried about being in a similar situation, so we asked WilmerHale clarify its position on rehiring clerks. The firm gave us this response:
All former summer associates who received an offer and then went on to clerk after graduation from law school have been invited to join the firm as associates. The firm, however, does not tell associates who leave for a clerkship that they can return after their clerkships are complete; rather, former associates must reapply to the firm, and we have not historically given offers of employment to all former associates at the conclusion of their clerkships. This year, we extended offers to some but not all of the former associates who inquired about returning; in addition, we have hired a small number of very promising judicial clerks who had not previously been with the firm.
So, if you clerk before you start at the firm, you are golden. But if you worked for a couple of years and then decided to clerk, best of luck.
Despite the difficulties clerks are facing when trying to get back into the Biglaw market, there are still many people who want to cool their heels as a clerk. One deferred incoming WilmerHale associate was so happy to receive a clerkship that the firm posted his gushing thanks on its internal website.
More details after the jump.
Here on Above the Law, we have extensively covered layoffs caused by the shrinking economy. We’ve also covered stealth layoffs. And we’ve covered performance review layoffs that have been done out in the open.
But at WilmerHale it looks like we are seeing an example of this: economically induced performance reviews resulting in stealth messages that require people to openly leave the firm.
Say that ten times fast. A tipster reports:
I know of [several] associates and counsel that have been laid off at Wilmer in the past week. Many of the associates are 2-4 years, but the lay-offs reach up to the 6 year level. All of them were let go for “performance” reasons – but everyone that I’ve talked to has had nearly perfect evaluations….
The not so subtle indication we are getting from the firm is to tread lightly – find something else and leave quietly, and if [people] do that, they will get help, resources, support and references. I imagine the flipside of that is [squeaky wheels] will get a performance based dismissal to hang over their heads. … People are just too scared to say anything in this economy. Of course, there is always the shame of thinking you’ve been let go for “performance” reasons that will keep people quiet as well.
As we understand it, these cuts have taken place in Washington D.C. and Boston.
After the jump, WilmerHale tells us that there have been no “layoffs.”
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 email@example.com 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.
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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