July 10, 2006
Law Firm Associates: "Talk To Me"
Posted by Gordon Smith

New flash! Associates in large law firms are unhappy.

Ashby Jones' "Flaw" column in the W$J today is about how three New York law firms responded to an American Lawyer survey of mid-level associate (dis)satisfaction. The three firms -- Proskauer Rose, Cahill Gordon & Reindel, and Curtis, Mallet-Prevost, Colt & Mosle -- ranked at the bottom of the 160 U.S. law firms that were included in the survey.

Upon further investigation, all three firms discovered what should have been obvious source of dissatisfaction: lack of communication from the firm to the associates. And all three firms responded:

For the first time ever, Cahill Gordon told its associates what was likely to appear in the American Lawyer's revenue survey before the survey came out. Proskauer held three "town-hall" meetings to allow associates to ask questions of management, and began including associates on news about the firm's finances and strategy in a more timely fashion. Curtis, Mallet initiated quarterly meetings with associates, and invited associate participation on a handful of firm committees.

Skadden was always very good at communication. In the Delaware office, we had a weekly lunch at which matters relating to the firm were discussed. At one of those lunches, I was told that the firm was freezing the salaries of Delaware associates for one year because it was unfair for us to make as much as the New York associates. So much for the "one firm" ethic that had been touted during our recruitment. Anyway, I appreciated the notice so much that I reciprocated by giving a full six months' notice when I got my teaching job.

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