Sunday, November 23, 2008

D.C. Friday Afternoon Mini-Massacre: Debevoise Axes 40 Contract Attorneys

"We were then told by the Firm's contract attorney supervisor (Greg) within the last few days that the hours for next week would be shortened to 45 hours, but that this was still a long term project. See how many changes have been made already? People started getting antsy...So here's the "guts" of the story: Today (Friday), we're on the review, and the LegaleStaffing supervisors are both there. In fact, one of them was nice enough to bring us all bagels and muffins from Corner Bakery. In fact, they told us that they were planning on this being a 9 month - 1 year project. In fact, a couple of the supervising attorneys from the firm were roaming the space and answering spot questions.

Then, at 4:15 PM this afternoon, there was some mysterious shuffling by the LegaleStaffing supervisors. And then they mysteriously called about 10 people out of the room one at a time. And that's when the rumor mill started going that they were letting some people go from the project. We all figured that those people who they took out of the room were let go... We couldn't have been more wrong. Instead, THE REST OF US WERE BEING LET GO and we were told by LegaleStaffing that the project was immediately being reduced from 50 to 10 attorneys, and that we had to sign out, effectively at 5 PM today (November 21)... Now recall, the firm had scaled this project up by 30 attorneys in the last 3 days, and now, they were effectively telling all of us to get the hell out, on a Friday Afternoon. Apparently, the case seemed to take a new direction... or something..... but even the Staffing Agency was in the dark.

People were in a state of disbelief. We all turned in our case binders and time sheets, and then exited into the cold air of a November day in Washington, D.C.

Guess people will think twice before working for D&P in the future... I don't blame LegaleStaffing... it sounded like they were kept in the dark as much as we were...

Just disgraceful behavior by D&P, letting 40 contract attorneys go with absolutely no warning on a Friday afternoon, the week before thanksgiving.

Hope this makes it to your page. Heartless bastards. I hope they all rot."

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

Pretty typical stuff. I think anyone who has worked temp for a few months has experienced something like this. I have experienced far worse humiliations. At least they were nice about it and bought you breakfast.

It's just par for the course and one of the many reasons that temping sucks.

In order for temp attorneys to have credibility we need to stop whining and bitching over the end of project. This is pretty routine stuff.

Anonymous said...

Same shit, different blog entry. LAME.

Anonymous said...

Glad you came back, roach boy.

Anonymous said...

What did you want the firm to do? This is law firm, not welfare.

Plus, these people are freaking contract attorneys, and they are DC--the home of contract attorneydom. They know what the deal is. As a contract attorney your job is as secure this current stock market, if not worse.

But these guys should know that this kind of stuff happens and then you move on to the next project. This happens all the time.

Also, this is a client thing from the firm not a firm thing. For some reason, the client decided they were only going to pay for so much, and so the firm made adjustments. If the firm's client was willing to pay for all of them, then all of them would still be working there.

If you are going to be a contract attorney understand that you are a free agent and your job can end at any moment. That is the nature of the business. If you do not like it, then don't contract at all, and you won't get your feeling hurt.

Anonymous said...

I agree that sudden layoffs are "par for the course" and there's probably nothing the agencies or the firms can do about that.

One of the things that irks me, though, is the whole "spike/crash" situation that happens too often. Like, a lot of times, projects will staff up but then lay off soon afterwards. I kinda understand that if there's a deadline or something, but often there seems to be no deadline and no real reason. It's like they staffed up, the client freaked out about the rising costs, then the layoffs came. I mean, just don't staff up in first place. There was obviously no need for the staff up if the layoffs come so fast on the heels. It just feels like the agencies and law firms got a little greedy, wanted to push the envelope, and then got smacked down by the client. It's just sad for the people who get onto a project only to get laid off almost immediately.

Anonymous said...

I do not understand the shock at being let go from a temp project.

Demands change, clients settle, courts extend deadlines. Work hard while you're there, be known for doing consistently good work, and there will be something else for you in short order.

One of my previous projects handled the situation discussed in this post reasonably well, though. When the project demands radically shifted, they called about six of us to come chat one on one at different times during the day. I got stopped by an admin on my way to get more coffee. They explained what was happening, that they were happy with our work, and would be needing us. When we were all back in the room, they called a meeting. They let everyone go. We finished the day, and they paid an extra eight hours (which, because of the timing, meant 8 hours of overtime).

The six of us who had been notified got a call that evening asking us to come in the next day.

Anonymous said...

Yes, it is the nature of the game. What irks people though is the whole unprofessional way in which things are sometimes carried out. How about better project planning and vetting of candidates? That way you won't have to lay off dozens of people and demoralize those remaining even before the project starts. How about actually taking the time to find quality candidates for some of these gigs? I hate walking into a room and finding a bunch of Cooley LLM's that can hardly speak English.

Anonymous said...

Law firms do not know what they are doing. I am not surprised by the layoff as a temp. Not surprised anymore by the incompetence. But, it is incompetence. These are just poorly managed projects. It means they can not tell what is happening at all from hour to hour? Part of being a good management is anticipation of need, good communication and follow through. None of which is present if you are changing your mind hourly. If I were a client I would be a little concerned by the incompetent management.

Anonymous said...

I like blowjobs.

Anonymous said...

Well we can tell at least one poster is not getting any from home since he felt the need to share that with us.

Anonymous said...

Hope they fire Ellan Grasso, night supervisor of the word processing center.
She's absolutely horrible.

Anonymous said...

I was on this project and wanted to add some details:

The staffing company initially brought in about 15/18 or so attorneys as two separate groups over 2 weeks because of "bandwidth" issues at the Firm's office.

The rooms we were in were windowless, and quite warm, but we did have internet access and there was a kitchen with free coffee/tea, so it was bearable. We were informed that this would be at least a 6 month contract and the hours would be as high as 70 hours/week.

However, when we showed up to our first day at the Firm, the Firm told us that this was being cut to 60 hours and that we had to take a 1 hour break each day. to keep ourselves from getting "burn out". (Sure...)

Our pay was $35/hour on fixed 12 hour schedule with overtime, 8 am to 8 pm, monday through friday.

As a group, we spent few weeks in the Firm's space, and we even had a couple of weekly progress meetings with the supervising Firm attorneys.

One day, the firm's contract attorney supervisor (Greg) came through to tell us that they were moving us into DTI (A large document review space) in the Ronald Reagan Center. This move was a big deal because we also heard that because the Firm needed the space having brought in 30 new attorneys to ramp up the review, of virtually millions and millions of documents. These new attorneys joined last Wednesday, had their orientation meeting upstairs, and then came down into the Firm's space before we made the move over to the new space which occurred around mid-day that day. The move went smoothly...

However, we lost our internet access, and we weren't allowed to eat at our terminals. Well, the eating policy created a minor revolt among the reviewers and ultimately, the "Snack Policy" was created, which in all honesty was a fair policy. ...but what happened as the story submitter said was unreal.

I just wanted to add this info as a preface...

The rest of the story is entirely true as stated.

Anonymous said...

It's pretty pathetic to call the ending of a project a "layoff". To be laid off, you need to be a bona fide law firm employee which would mean a severance package.

Wishful thinking....

Anonymous said...

So there was a mini-revolt and now you're surprised they threw you all out?

When will you people learn. Sit down, headphones, click and fly under the radar. It's the only way to survive in this climate.

Anonymous said...

I was also on this project:

The no-snacking rule was DTI's, not the Firm's.... Don't make the assumption that did anyone in. The Firm was not involved in that issue.

Kudos to the Staffing Agency for the snack policy compromise with DTI.

Anonymous said...

Let them eat snacks.

Anonymous said...

phew.... phew.... Let them eat cake!

Anonymous said...

"It's pretty pathetic to call the ending of a project a "layoff". To be laid off, you need to be a bona fide law firm employee."

Can you inform the law schools and ABA of this fact, so they can stop marketing their 98% employed numbers to potential victims?

Anonymous said...

You're not attorneys, you're clickers. What are you whining about?

Trollop said...

5:26, 5:29, 5:31

You are a genius.

Anonymous said...

Maybe if you had a union you could negotiate snack privileges!

Anonymous said...

if you had a union, you could have negotiated for length of time. that way the would have contracted with you rather than wasted your time. basically again econ 101 for the idiot posters- it's about the relative bargaining power. right now you have none. with a union there will be some. it won't create miracles, but it will at least mean you could have negotiated before hand saying that if they were going to release you they had to pay for additional weeks as cost of ending contract early. right now, the irony is that they call us contract attorneys , but its really at will. since there is not really a meaningful contract formed of any kind.

Anonymous said...

I agree with a prior poster... It's just flat out incompetence by D&P....

Yes, it's that simple.

Anonymous said...

D&P isn't incompetent, you just aren't an important factor in their decision making. All the real associates were aware of what was going on as the situation unfolded. Yeah, let's stop what we're doing and "Tell the temps immediately". Ha. No.

Anonymous said...

Debevoise can't even manage a simple discovery project. What a toilet.

Anonymous said...

9:04, what's it like to not even be able to get a 30/hr temp job at the "toilet" D&P? I mean, the real attys there with real jobs are making a min of 160k. I think the joke is on you, no?

Do you think of shooting yourself in the face and just ending it all??

Anonymous said...

The employees at that toilet are paid $160! What a waste of money! Wake up clients! They can't even screw in a light bulb correctly.

Anonymous said...

Good idea! Shout out loud on a blog telling clients what to do. Corporate America's in-house counsel wants nothing more than to heed the anonymous advice of unwanted/unemployable 25$hr clickers.

HAHAHAHAH

Anonymous said...

The point is not to change the client's mind. The point is to state the obvious that most law firms are poorly managed. The funny thing is that the concept so offends some that they feel the need to deny it on the same blog they say no one reads. Personally, I applaud the mismanagement. More times than not their screw ups help us as much as they hurt us. It's only in cases like this that it sucks. They are so disorganized they have no idea one moment to the next what's happening.

Anonymous said...

Whether you like it or not, this was utter incompetence by the Firm.

18 --> 50 --> 10 attorneys over of 3 days.

Pure genius project management indeed....

Anonymous said...

They're taking advantage of the market situation.

Hire more people than you need (since they can't find work anyway), then get rid of the ones that don't max out the billables, take brakes, screw around on the Internet, etc.
As for the 15 that were already there, tough luck. They now have to compete with 50 other attorneys. The firm raised their level of production but lowered their cost. Plus, they met some kind of deadline in the process.

Classic move.

The market has changed. 6 months ago, they needed better relations with the agencies (they'd start to send the dregs over there if this continued) and there weren't as many temps looking for work (they'd have trouble filling the positions with reasonably competent temps since most were employed). However, now it's an employer's market. If you have the clients, then you can call the shots.

My advice:
Get on unemployment and start taking pro bono cases (that way you have some marketable skills when the market improves) or go somewhere cheap for 6 months and learn a foreign language.