PUZZLE PIECES – Part 12

[Concluding the imaginary cross-examination of a real senior partner profiled in the April 2010 issue of ABA Journal (http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/not_done_yet) — and connecting the final dots to the ongoing associate compensation squeeze-plays…]

Q: “Adversity tests leadership, doesn’t it?”

Partner: “I agree.”

Q: “And 2009 was a tough year, wasn’t it?”

Partner: “It was a difficult time for many people.”

Q: “For many people — but not for your firm’s equity partners, right?”

Partner: “Wrong. Our revenues were down and the decisions we made to let people go were agonizing.”

Q: “But not so agonizing that they slowed your mission to keep billable hours up and average equity partner profits at $2 million a year, correct?”

Partner: “Some things can’t be measured in dollars.”

Q: “True. But Am Law reported recently that your firm’s 2009 average equity partner profits were just under $2 million, right?”

Partner: “That’s the report.”

Q: “If we return to your earlier comments about free market capitalism, who has borne the owner’s risk to your firm in the current economic downturn, Dechert’s equity partners who on average saw their incomes drop from $2.35 to $2 million a year, or the salaried workers — associates, non-equity partners, and staff — who lost their jobs in 2009?”

Partner: “We shared the pain. But we’re no different from other large, successful law firms. Someone running another big firm made the point three years ago: We have to keep our stock price high.” http://www.mlaglobal.com/articles/JCashmanMayerBrownCutsTrib.pdf; http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2007/03/02/more-on-the-mayer-brown-departures/tab/article/

Q: “When you say other large, successful firms, are you referring to the ones that, according to a NY Times April 1 article  (http://dealbook.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/04/01/at-law-firms-reconsidering-the-model-for-associates-pay/), are now developing ways to cut associate salaries?”

Partner: “I can’t speak to what other firms are doing.”

Q: “That article wasn’t an April Fool’s Day joke, was it? Underlying all of those efforts is the mission to preserve equity partners’ seven-figure incomes, isn’t it?”

Partner: “If you say so.”

Q: “And now many people like you — aging senior partners who’ve become accustomed to making millions — don’t know what to do next with your lives, do you?”

Partner: “Speaking for myself, time has crept up on me.”

Q: “You were so focused on pulling up the ladder as a way to protect what you had that you forgot to plan your own exit strategy, didn’t you?”

Partner: No answer.

Q: “Justice can be ironic, can’t it? You don’t have to answer that. No further questions at this time.”

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