Biglaw’s mid-level associates are not happy with the company’s culture and mandates to come into the office



Getting to the middle level in Biglaw isn’t easy, especially in the wake of a pandemic. First, you had to break into Biglaw (which can be very difficult, especially if you didn’t attend a prestigious law school or didn’t get top grades). After that, you had to put up with high pressure and long working hours. Then, I needed to endure and somehow persevere through the incredibly uncertain times that COVID-19 has brought to the legal profession and the world at large (although we’re sure the special bonuses and pay increases would have helped a bit) . Finally, you had to avoid layoffs while dealing with going back to the office in a post-coronavirus world, and all the shenanigans that came with it.

Oof! This was not an easy task, but if you… an act It has arguably been more difficult than ever to reach the middle ranks of your company over the past few years – and these colleagues simply have had enough. the American lawyer It has just released a survey of mid-level partners and, as Dan Rowe points out, “measures to correct the balance sheet should not kill employee morale when company leaders are transparent and willing to take some of the burden themselves”. He goes on to explain that, unfortunately, this has not been the average experience across all companies:

Law firms are chasing colleagues on billable hours and getting stingier on expenses. Layoffs go unacknowledged, creating panic and resentment among associates. Sensing the advantage of the labor market, companies are rolling back the flexible work policies that helped them source talent and stimulate the movement of colleagues across the country. And in companies where there is a general feeling that things are getting worse, the lack of transparency about these and other decisions only serves to fan the flames.

To come up with these findings, Am Law asked middle-level colleagues to rate their satisfaction with their firm on a variety of different questions: compensation and benefits; coaching and mentoring; relationships with partners and other partners; interest in work and level of satisfaction with it; Company policy on billable hours; and management openness about company strategies and partnership opportunities. And what came up again and again in the participants’ answers? This year, an entrenched culture is under fire, and billable-hour expectations are to blame amid a “soft recession”. Many of the big Biglaw companies don’t seem to “pass the vitality test”.

Some of the law firms with the largest drop in associate satisfaction compared to 2022 dealt with financial difficulties as the economy turned around in the middle of last year. At Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, which fell from 20th in partner satisfaction last year to 52nd this year, several colleagues said sentiment around the company had become worse as the deal spigot dried up.

The company’s culture has changed as the “financial crisis” continues to slow business. “Every penny spent is scrutinized,” said one of Cadwallader’s associates. “I understand it has to do with billable hours, but what happened to everything else you value during busy times?” is a question I’ve been asking myself lately.

Cooley slipped down the rankings, dropping from No. 22 to No. 55, and received blistering open responses from colleagues who noted the stark change in morale as hours ran out and layoffs began across the company.

“We preach ‘be cool’ but that only applies when times are good,” said one of Cooley’s associates. “When business slows down, partners go from being ‘cool and funny’ people to being rude, callous, and irreverent.” Another colleague said the company’s attitude shifted from “We appreciate you” to “You’re lucky to be here” after mass layoffs in late 2022. The company also angered some employees by aggressively encouraging a return to the office — which some colleagues saw as an act of disrespect. Incentive. Delegation amid layoffs – after previously allowing remote work.

Another big concern for the mid-levels was office attendance mandates. Everyone continues to enjoy the flexibility of working from home, but having to work from the office actually puts a damper on the experience for mid-level colleagues. And the call to bring colleagues back to the office has been met with great indignation – especially because it seems all there are sticks and not enough carrots:

Mid-level employees were beginning to adjust to the increased mandate to come to offices, although most were adamant that three days a week was enough to see colleagues. Instead, colleagues’ biggest complaints about returning to the office have been directed at companies’ lack of effort to make the office worth the commute.

“If you’re going to implement back-to-the-office, invest in workplace culture (more than free food),” said one of Cooley’s partners. “We need time outside of paid hours to build teams and do professional development.”

Still, the free food was carrot enough for an astonishing number of partners.

However, let’s move on to the world ranking. The full list is available hereBut these are the companies that rank in the top 25 in terms of average level of satisfaction:

  1. O’Melfini and Myers
  2. McDermott Weil and Emery
  3. Morgan Lewis
  4. linklaters
  5. Empty Rome
  6. Gibson Dunn
  7. Baker and Hostler
  8. Proscore Rose
  9. Paul Hastings
  10. Mannat Phelps and Phillips
  11. dichert
  12. Joulston and Storrs
  13. Clifford Chance
  14. Hughes Hubbard and Reed
  15. Urik
  16. Finnegan
  17. Snell and Wilmer
  18. gibbons
  19. Winston and you will see
  20. Fried frank
  21. Munger-Tools and Olson
  22. Akin Gump
  23. chords, gray
  24. Latham
  25. Cahill Gordon

Congratulations to all of the companies that made the list! And congratulations to the mid-levels who have jobs they’re relatively happy with…all things considered.

2023 Mid-Level Partners Survey: Ratings (American lawyer)
How to kill your culture in a slight slump, according to the average levels (American lawyer)

Staci Zaretsky She is a senior editor at Above the Law magazine, where she has worked since 2011. She would love to hear from you, so please feel free to contact us. e-mail her with any tips, questions, comments or criticisms. You can follow them Twitter And threads or contact her at linkedin.


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