In the final tranche of a triad of bad news over the last few weeks, two recent reports–one about associates and another about partners–point out how, despite the current abysmal employment market, there are still lawyers of various stripes who, given the chance, would choose to jump overboard rather than hang on to their position.
In a recent New York Times article, it was reported that Skadden Arps had offered all of its 1300 associates worldwide the option of taking a year off for one-third pay, with no pro-bono obligation. One hundred twenty-five associates opted in, a number that a partner was quoted as describing as "in excess of our expectations."
The Lawyer reported April 14 that CMS Cameron McKenna, a large English firm, in a makeover termed a "Magic Roundabout" because of its spiral design [the English are into monikers: Linklaters calls its remake "New World" and Clifford Chance has settled on the term "size and shape review"], offered all of its 160+ equity partners the opportunity to move to non-equity status. Sixteen partners stepped forward, more than managing partner Duncan Weston said he had expected.
There is no denying that much is changing in the structuring of firms on both sides of the pond, and these two firms are among those riding that wave. The interesting note in both of these reports is that management remains surprised at the number of lawyers who, in spite of perilous times, would rather step away or down than stay at the helm. Unfortunately, it speaks to the still prevalent but now less obvious dissatisfaction that was manifest in the massive attrition rates of only 18 months ago.
When things get back to normal (yeah, right) and probably even before then, firms still have to tackle the issue of how to attract and keep the loyalty of their talent–since that is what in the end makes for a successful law firm. In spite of, and perhaps also particularly in the midst of, the rush to distribute pink-slips, let’s not let that particularly item fall off our "to-do" list.