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Around The Firms
26 August, 2009  
Fire away!

Latest musing about what’s happening in law firm land


We’ve invited insights into how law shops, great and small, are handling the GFC.

Some stoically insist nothing has changed with the world … and if it has they not going to tell anyone.

Others furiously hand out pink slips in the hope that life will return to “normal”.

The important thing is how these traumatic events are handled. Are the brutes or the sensitives ones in charge of the asylum?

Add to the comments below. All are anonymous, so employers (prospective or otherwise) will never know your contribution to the greater pond of human knowledge.

Fire away.

 
 

Reader Comments

Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 11, 2009, 1:32 am

At Gilbert + Tobin there have been no retrenchments ... yet. There has been a little more concerted removal of under-performing juniors, but no use of the probation period to increase churn (that said, the last of the probationary placements has just about worked through the system). There are a number of nervous partners - a visit from Danny, especially unannounced, is particularly unwelcome currently. The Marketing behemoth is actually getting a little smaller but HR is as bloated as ever.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 11, 2009, 1:33 am

The mood at Mallesons seems pretty upbeat -- one of the partners told me the other day (after a few drinks) that the firm would not be retrenching or cutting back on grad recruitment but would simply allow itself to lose staff through the usual attrition rate. He also said that lawyers 4 and 5 years out are the most vulnerable group... Meanwhile, several of the dozen or so summer clerks at Corrs didn't get offers (apparently) and everyone I know from there is very edgy. Freehills also didn't make offers to many of their summer clerks.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 11, 2009, 1:33 am

At Allens Arthur Robinson, the partnership is handling things with their usual ineptitude. In the Sydney office, there have been no wide scale sackings yet, but a few people from the M & A and Banking groups have been retrenched. A few Fridays ago, two people from M & A and at least one person from Banking lost their jobs and then a couple of weeks later one other person from M & A was "let go". Of course, the partners have not been honest enough to admit that they are sacking people. Instead, they have been sending around disingenuous emails, in which it has been claimed that the people concerned have "decided to resign with effect from last Friday". Nor has the partnership explained why it was necessary to have two rounds of sackings. Why couldn't all of these people have been retrenched at the same time? Whatever the reason, it's led people at Allens to ask themselves the question: who will it be this Friday on Allens Survivor?
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 11, 2009, 1:33 am

Complete and total incompetence, by some retrenched top-tier solicitors... It was 4:30 in the afternoon and I was summoned to a meeting with HR. Present were an assistant HR do-girl (young enough to be my daugther) and a slightly more senior member of the HR team. Not a soul from my practice group was anywhere to be found. I was told by the junior HR girl that I was being "made redundant". Not quite sure how that works, since I still feel the same as a person, but I think what the bitch meant was that my position was deemed to be unneccessary. Neither here nor there I suppose. The worst part about this experience has been the silent akwardness when people ask me what I do for a living. Do I pretend that I still have a job at a top-tier law firm as a respected corporate lawyer, at the same firm that savagly cut me from its books after I slaved away billing long hours week nights and weekends, or do I casually mention that I was retrenched? I definitely have a bitter twisted view of the law firm I once loved and was proud to tell people I worked for, but the reality is that the firm chose to act opportunistically, when they could have chosen to act with an understanding that with respect to the downturn, we are all in this together. The irony of the situation is that so many of our partners are die-hard labour voters, Rudd supporters to the end. But for the worker, when push comes to shove, they are not. I say the situation reeks of opportunism, because the firm is "in the black". It is my view that in a down economy, it is unrealistic to maintain the same level of profits as in boom-time. The top-tier firms see things differently though, and rather than accept any sort of responsibility to the juniors who got them where they are, they use the excuse of the down economy to cut the numbers, when they could use the excuse of the down economy to justify reduced profits. Another major issue is that these firms are hiring. Grads are presently being recruited, and juniors only slightly more experienced are being retrenched. The firm may save ten to twenty thousand dollars by doing this, but had they asked many of us, we would have gladly accepted the grad's salary. There was no regard for any viable alternative to redundancy. To me, this reeks of incompetence.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 11, 2009, 1:33 am

Kim Hennessy has had crisis talks with himself, his CFO and his whole PR and HR teams. For the moment,while he may have to reduce the size of his premises, he has decided not to let himself go. You will be the first to hear if the worst happens. Anon.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 13, 2009, 1:11 am

I understand Dibbs welcomed back a number of lawyers in early January ... and then made them redundant.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 13, 2009, 1:14 am

My information is that many of the big firms around town are operating at half capacity. Unless you happen to be involved in ongoing litigation the bar is certainly not busy. Cases are settling at a fraction of their value because clients simply cannot, or will not, afford a fight
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 13, 2009, 1:16 am

A friend of mind in the junior ranks of Clutz was downsized on a Friday afternoon a few weeks ago. It wasn't done with an abundance of sensitivity.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 13, 2009, 3:03 am

Story in The Australian March 6: "HWL Ebsworth recruits seven partners from rival firms". Story in Lawyers Weekly, March 12: "HWL redundancies confirmed" (17 sacked - six lawyers, two grads, three paras, six PAs. So confusing.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 13, 2009, 7:08 pm

Re: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/business/story/0,28124,25144423-17044,00.html I think the main premise of the article is *wrong*. Sydney firms aren't increasing grad intakes; they're trying their best to downsize their clerkships, downsize and defer grad offers. To suggest firms are still "chasing graduates" doesn't give enough credit to the fact that "graduate recruitment is done up to 18 months in advance". Noone could've predicted the extent of the downturn 18 months ago.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 18, 2009, 10:07 pm

Times are tough at insurance litigation shop, Moray & Agnew, where staff have received a series of missives from HR Manager Sandi Robertson and Executive Manager Jon Short recently. Birthday celebrations were an early casualty of the crisis. Robertson's fiat cites productivity losses incurred while staff sit around scoffing birthday cake and declares a ban on birthday celebrations, including those involving self-funded cake. Circulating the collection plate for farewell gifts has also been banned. (With the sheer volume of staff fleeing the Michael Pitt Money Factory, productivity loss due to signing farewell cards has been considerable, so we understand where Robertson is coming from on this one.) In a separate email, solicitors were warned about hoarding stockpiles of stationery and told to expect a crackdown. These missives follow an edict issued by Short in 2008, which bans external coffee breaks. Staff were instead directed to a single machine on one of the firm's three floors, which dispenses a gruesome brown substance alleged to be coffee. Shortly after Short's email went out, the Pittbull was sighted procuring a strong latte from a local caffeinery, a bitter pill for the firm's impoverished junior sols to swallow.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 19, 2009, 2:39 am

Upon receipt of these emails I imagined that the figureheads would be following this rigorous and somewhat scalding series of missives. However it was much to my 'delight' that I witnessed the HR Manager receiving a manicure and pedicure at 2.30pm during work hours. Although some may disagree, I'm of the opinion that her actions display a serious lack of work ethic and (well I'll leave the rest out...). Then again I guess what constitutes work ethic may not venture into her ideal retirement fund...
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 20, 2009, 2:07 am

So, does this mean that Michael Pitt has boned the exotic dancers for this year's Christmas party?
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 23, 2009, 2:20 am

I'm a practitioner from out of town who visited Sydney over the weekend and socialised with some local practitioners who mentioned this anonymous "blog" - I've now logged on to see it in the flesh. The Moray comments were mentioned specifically. My goodness me, do you think that when you had a staff in the hundreds, you might be annoyed that your workforce downed tools to celebrate an obscure birthday for Jenny in the second secretarial typing pool? When I read on, I saw the major worries of stationery, coffee and pedicures. If you think you have the balls to run a show of your own - do it. If not, comply with your job description, which no doubt expects work, work loyalty and a refrain from undermining your employer/s. Good luck in keeping yourself a low profile, but one wonders whether you stand out already.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 23, 2009, 7:22 pm

Re the second post - Freehills made offers to all but a couple of this year's summer clerks (of which they had almost 60), and all offers from previous years are still being honoured. The firm has cut back on some luxuries (eg free lunch is now only once a week instead of twice) and the Partnership has openly stated that it will employ similar cost-savings across the board, including to their own salaries, before they will resort to cutting jobs. All in all, things are pretty up-beat and the partners are making a lot of time available to meet with staff who are worried about job security. Seems Freehills is doing pretty well comparitively...
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 24, 2009, 1:38 am

It's easy to undermine employers who regard themselves as superior to all employees that are not in a senior position within the firm. Whilst they are in a position of authority, they certainly are not in a position to belittle others or treat them as though their contribution to the firm is not worth recognition. They are also not in a position to defy the rules that they put in place. Ever heard of equality within the workplace? Might I add, if you're from out of town, you're clearly not aware of the runnings of Moray & Agnew on a day to day basis so perhaps you should keep your opinions to yourself rather than publishing ignorant and ill informed assumptions.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 24, 2009, 1:38 am

@ March 23 2009, 6:20am: Have a safe trip back to Dubbo and let me know if you want to borrow any girlies from the typing pool. I've heard some Sydney firms are allowing them to become solicitors now. My goodness. C. Curmudgeon & Co. Bourke (Accredited Specialist - Elder Lawyer)
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 24, 2009, 5:16 am

You obviously don't fit in at Moray & Agnew so why stay? Why not try for a job somewhere which meets with your personal requirements? Pop them on your resume dear, I'm sure you'll get the job you're after. I can just see it now, "I'm a team player, good work ethic, loyal....etc" Dubbo would most definitely not have you.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 24, 2009, 7:35 pm

The only "personal requirement" I have is to be treated as an equal and with some dignity. I would assume much the same as any normal human being. If you can't see my point then perhaps you don't fall in to that category.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 24, 2009, 7:36 pm

Nobody fits in at Moray & Agnew, the managing staff make sure of that.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 24, 2009, 11:47 pm

You're a bit clueless, aren't you? Do you realise that your argument is premissed on a rather questionable assumption?
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 24, 2009, 11:47 pm

11:36pm - I don't know about that. As long as you like (or even better play) rugby, are not averse to the odd sexist joke and crack on to the secretaries at after work drinks, you'll fit in just fine.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 25, 2009, 2:20 am

Please explain how the assumption that most people would like to be treated with dignity and respect in the workplace is questionable? @ March 25, 3:47 am - I think you might be on to something.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 25, 2009, 2:21 am

The only "personal requirement" I have is to be treated as an equal and with some dignity. I would assume much the same as any normal human being. If you can't see my point then perhaps you don't fall in to that category.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 25, 2009, 2:21 am

Every assumption is questionable, that is why it's an assumption and not a fact.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 25, 2009, 2:21 am

Aside from the rather interesting tit-for-tat between these two above, Clutz (as noted above) is handling the GFC with all the good grace we would expect of them. Some partners and certain segments of management are peanuts; sending wholly stupid and unbelievable emails about job security and the like- you know the ones. In any case, we can only hope that the firm either implodes, merges with a better firm or something else. BTW: I work at Clutz!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 26, 2009, 1:53 am

To the Mallesons person who decided to have a free shot at Freehills. Congratulations. Freehills employed 58 summer clerks in Sydney for 08/09 - which was more than any other firm. 56 of the summer clerks received written offers of permanent employment last month. Maybe someone from your firm can opine on how that equates to 'Freehills also didn't make offers to many of their summer clerks.' You are excused given your post was 'after a few drinks'.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 26, 2009, 1:57 am

Reading the above angers me. Moray & Agnew HR doesn't listen to junior staff. I'm glad I don't work there any more.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 26, 2009, 8:12 am

misery and anguish! lol!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 26, 2009, 8:22 pm

"you might be annoyed that your workforce downed tools to celebrate an obscure birthday for Jenny in the second secretarial typing pool?" Tell me please how can a birthday be 'obscure'? Which particular month, or rather, with particular day is an 'obscure' one. I think the word you mean here is unimportant and this merely proves the severe culture problems at Moray and Agnew that the other posts are highlighting.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 26, 2009, 8:22 pm

Oh and work loyalty no longer exists: You are no longer loyal to us so we are no longer loyal to you. This is what 'mutual benefit' employment has created
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 26, 2009, 8:40 pm

Free shots all round.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 26, 2009, 8:40 pm

lol
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 27, 2009, 8:17 am

Just saw the article in the financial review Re: Sandi Robertson canning birthday celebrations and the like due to not wanting to "lower staff morale". HA HA. Give me a break. I think you'll find that it's not so much the birthday celebrationas (or lack of for some people)that lowers morale, but how you treat your staff. Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 27, 2009, 8:17 am

This seems to have degenerated into a fight. Can we please have some new information re GFC impact on firms?
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 27, 2009, 8:18 am

"Reading the above angers me. Moray & Agnew HR doesn't listen to junior staff. I'm glad I don't work there any more." Nicely put comrade - why don't you join at trade union. Pillock.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 29, 2009, 2:14 am

At Skadden, blah, blah, blah & blah LLP we cut champagne for farewell parties and birthdays several months ago. The paper shredding service has also since stopped; we self-shred these days. I now share my secretary with another lawyer. Oh bubby, behave! Free soft drinks are out too. All drinks now cost a bit of shrapnel, but the upside is that there's more variety. Lawyers across all offices have been offered the once in a lifetime chance to participate in a 'Sidebar' program for 1-year at 30% salary (lump sum), plus health insurance, plus up-keep of law school fees. Sounds like fun doesn't it. BTW I'm also a lawyer from way out of town, but I've always found downing my bucket and spade and splashing about in the secretaries' pool to be one of the most rewarding aspects of of legal practice. Best wishes Jenny!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: March 29, 2009, 7:15 pm

The person writing about Morays is being sought for a vacant (very) job writing copy for Julia Gillard.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: April 8, 2009, 7:48 pm

Heard a rumour the other day that Allens has made some redundancies. Apparently people were offered a standard redundancy up front, or a beefed up redundancy package if they signed a confidentiality agreement. I don't work there though, so I can't confirm the accuracy of the rumour.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: April 11, 2009, 2:02 am

Slaters seem to be going gangbusters - no retrenchments and, as ASX disclosures tell staff and the public at large, profits are way up.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: April 22, 2009, 11:16 pm

From Crikey's "tips and rumours" section 20 April: The Partners at a certain national law firm in Brisbane and Melbourne are willing to take a pay cut, but the Sydney partners want to sack junior lawyers and admin staff. This is ironic when it is only the Sydney office that is making a loss.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: April 23, 2009, 4:43 am

Herbert Geer has let some of their corporate lawyers from their Brisbane and Melbourne offices go within the past few months. They seem to have escaped attention for doing so, however, because they are only mid-tier (if even that). Like other firms they didn't have the courage to pucker up and simply admit to the lawyers they culled that they were being let go due to the economic downturn. No, that would mean they would have to on some level fcking acknowledge reality. Instead they claimed that the lawyers they let go weren't pulling their weight and were lousy employees. I guess at the end of the day they haven't acted all too differently from other firms. But the moral of the story is if someone was working for a firm that was at least up front with them and the fact they were being made redundant, at least that has some modicum of honesty to it.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: April 23, 2009, 4:43 am

Herbert Geer has let some of their corporate lawyers from their Brisbane and Melbourne offices go within the past few months. They seem to have escaped attention for doing so, however, because they are only mid-tier (if even that). Like other firms they didn't have the courage to pucker up and simply admit to the lawyers they culled that they were being let go due to the economic downturn. No, that would mean they would have to on some level fcking acknowledge reality. Instead they claimed that the lawyers they let go weren't pulling their weight and were lousy employees. I guess at the end of the day they haven't acted all too differently from other firms. But the moral of the story is if someone was working for a firm that was at least up front with them and the fact they were being made redundant, at least that has some modicum of honesty to it.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 12, 2009, 1:58 am

TressCox let me know that I am no longer needed last week. They said that my billingis weren't where they expected them to be, and made it out like it was my fault. But it wasn't, for the past few months I would go to work and there simply wouldn't be anything to do. Is that my fault? Maybe, I feel sick about it. Where am I going to get another job in this market :(
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: June 22, 2009, 4:49 am

welcome to government. no paper shredders, no stationary, do your own typing, I won't go on. The majority of you are whingers - and no doubt lost sight of why you did law in the first place - be thankful you have a job, and if you dont like it, change a) your job; b) your entire career; c) yourself; or d) all of the above Reckon option d) would suit
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: July 14, 2009, 1:59 am

I had lunch with a mate who started in my suburban practice, as a 15 year old junior, 20 years ago.She wanted to become a lawyer ( I was her role model). She left me several years later and worked in the CBD for 1st & 2nd Tier Law Firms while studying for a Business Degree and observed, 1st hand, the tyranny of Time Costing, Budgets & Bullies masquerading as Partners; eventually, eschewing Law for a H.R. Degree.She now heads up the H.R. Dept for a Private 2ndary School with >600 employees and told me that they should ALL spend a couple of months "work experience" in Private Legal Practice because they will then discover how very, very fortunate they are that they were not "clever" enough to qualify for the Law Faculty in their nearest Uni! L.A. Law, Ali McGraw & Boston Legal have blood on their hands for misleading Generation X & Y what it is like to be a Lawyer!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: July 30, 2009, 8:56 pm

Mallesons have just announced on newlawyer.com.au that they're following Allens' lead amongst the top tier and offering voluntary redundancies.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 3, 2009, 4:58 am

Re post on 14/7 - A private secondary school with more than 600 employees?? No wonder Julia Gilliard is having to fund so many plaques to attach to school extensions. My word!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 24, 2009, 8:23 pm

Stationary? immobile; at a standstill; at a stop....in government, hmmmm i will say no more
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: August 25, 2009, 8:56 pm

Oh my! I note from the IRC listings that Moray and Agnew are at it again - another unfair dismissal. When will their management team (for lack of a better term) ever learn that staff are in fact an asset NOT a disposable commodity that can be dismissed at the whim of a pitbull. Suggestions: A management development program (if it is not past the stage where learning is possible)or even, inject new blood into the organisation. The possibilities could be endless - motivated, loyal, dedicated staff. Dream on!!!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: September 3, 2009, 12:03 am

Most HR types of my acquaintance are unproductive anally retentive cretins whose continued survival in tough economic times seems largely due to their only undoubted "expertise" as corporate knife merchants. Retaining otherwise productive professional staff ought to be a priority but not to these venal automatons whose only response to business downturns is slash and burn. Oxygen thieves the lot of them
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: September 15, 2009, 4:56 am

Urgh Thank you All and Sundry for providing affirmation for my decision to get out of the legal industry. There is a better life out there. Whilst Im sure none of you miss me, the feeling is mutual. To all that have been 'let go' recently, for what its worth, my sincere sympathies. No educated intelligent hard-working person should be without jobs when you see those oxygen thieving legal HR numbskulls out there.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: September 23, 2009, 7:56 pm

Aargh, what possesses one to be a lawyer? I've worked at boutique, mid tier commercial and specialist crim firm, now on my own...best move I made...still loved the life of mid tier and long hours whilst it was there. Yes it was tyranny at its best, long hours (billable of course) and when the senior partners were found wanting...it was those in the 3-5 year bracket who copped the blame! Give them nothing and take them nowhere I say, it's an evil self serving profession, but hey I'm still there! Luv the Law!
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: October 8, 2009, 8:28 pm

I am very sad to read how unhappy lawyers are. I spent 2 years at a small firm and 14 years at a mid-tier firm, eventually making partner despite nasty comments about me having 2 kids (I'm female) and the blokes being promoted ahead of me but then seeking my legal advice all the time. 2 years ago I went to the Bar instead, and couldn't be happier, and contrary to reports my floor is all busy, in a broad range of work. It's not for everyone, but if you are intelligent and went into law for the intellectual challenge rather than to supervise spoilt brat juniors who expect everything done for them, pointless partner meetings & backstabbing, then make contacts, obtain some experience & come to the Bar. The boys still get jobs ahead of you sometimes just because daddy is a QC or the solicitor went to Knox with him, but if you are good, you will thrive. There is a lot of support for juniors.
Posted by: Anonymous
Date: October 8, 2009, 8:29 pm

Most large law firms have within them a group of narcissistic jerk offs called HR. This offal use up oxygen but do very little else of a genuinely productive nature i.e. they are a permanent cost burden and never make a bloody centime. Because partners of these establishments are not keen to get their hands stupidly dirty stabbing their more productive underlings (rather than said HR leeches) in the back to keep profits-and their share of same-at pre GFC levels, they employ these scum to fill that role which they do, albeit at great cost, most ably. Like cockroaches, their survival is (sadly) assured should there be an apocalypse sometime in our future.