It is happening—all the firms are letting people go and letting people out at higher rates more than the last couple of years. This is just the ordinary course when the markets are down and no firm wants to be seen doing [layoffs], so they are simply being more aggressive in their reviews.
[When demand is high, law firms] turn a blind eye [to low hours] and don’t do anything about it. When things are slow, hours are a big factor. So associates with extremely low hours are much more vulnerable. When things are really busy, even weaker associates are busy, [but] when the tide is low, you can really see what’s going on beneath the surface.
— Matthew Bersani, a legal recruiter and consultant at Cliff Group and former Shearman & Sterling partner, in comments given to the American Lawyer, on how Biglaw firms are managing their associate ranks through the use of a “tougher review cycle.” Bersani continued, saying that “[w]ith the decrease in demand, the strong associates are mainly busy,” but that other associates “naturally have lower hours, which puts a target on their back.”
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.