PUZZLE PIECES – Part 10

[Continuing the imaginary cross-examination of a real senior partner profiled in the April 2010 issue of the ABA Journal(http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/not_done_yet)]

Q: “All right. Let’s look at 2009. In February, your firm cut 19 attorneys from its U.S offices and, a few weeks later, another 10 staffers?”

Partner: “We weren’t alone. Surely, you remember Black Thursday of that month — 800 biglaw attorneys and staff fired in a single day; over 1100 attorneys for the week.”

Q: “In March 2009, you said good-bye to 125 people — 63 attorneys and other time keepers and 62 adminsitrative staff?”

Partner: “With markets crashing, the firm couldn’t keep unproductive people on the payroll.”

Q: “And firms like yours couldn’t let their billable hours drop below 2,000 a  year, could they?”

Partner: “I don’t agree with that.”

Q: “Your firm’s responses for the NALP Directory said its minimum billable hours expectation for associates in 2008 was 1,950 in Philadelphia and 2,000 in New York, right?”

Partner: “So what? That’s not unique. Our press release explained that we’ve tried to match our resources with our projected needs.”

Q: “That press release came in July 2009, when your firm reportedly terminated another 25 associates along with staff and paralegal positions, right?”

Partner: “You’re citing Law.com and Above The Law.” 

Q: “And you’ve been shrinking your summer associate programs — in your Philadelphia headquarters, for example, from 37 in 2008 to 23 in 2009 to 13 in 2010, according to your NALP report?”

Partner: “If you say so.”

Q: “And in New York from 25 in 2009 to 12 this year?”

Partner: “Whatever the report says.”

Q: “Did your firm ever worry that it might be throwing its furniture into the fireplace in an effort to keep the house warm?”

Partner: “We’re keeping the best people. I’m not concerned.”

Q: “And you’re trying to keep the billable time of those survivors above 2,000 hours annually, aren’t you?

Partner: “That’s your characterization and conclusion, not mine.”

Q: “When you joined the firm in the early 1970’s, there’s wasn’t as much discussion about billable hours, which for most big firms in those days averaged around 1,700 a year, right?”

Partner: “It was a less important metric then. Times have changed.”

Q: “And another metric — leverage — now dictates that associates work eight years at your firm before receiving even non-equity partner consideration, right?”

Partner: “That’s what our NALP submission states.”

Q: “And the only thing your NALP submission says about the prospects for advancement to equity partnership thereafter is ‘CBC’ — case-by-case, right?”

Partner: “I don’t think we’re unusual in that respect. There are exceptions, but the pyramid is the prevailing large firm business model today. It endures because it works.”

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