Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Sullivan & Cromwell Update

The economy is bad, so that means that down here at S&C, the clients are starting to dwindle, and the ones the firm has are having trouble paying their legal bills. New cases aren't starting, which means that associates and litigation analysts don't have anything to do. That means they're starting to get the work that contract attorneys usually get.

This means that even "lifer" temps who have been working at S&C are being summarily dismissed, usually with little to no notice that we could lose the steady source of income that we'd come to expect. No notice, no severance. Your last day of earning is today. If you discuss this with lawyers not trapped in the temp system, or with basically anybody not on the inside, the situation smacks of outrageous and patent injustice.

Here's my question: what's the point of having a blogroll of people devoted to complaining about the life of a contract attorney if that position isn't being used to do some good? Sure, it's cathartic to bash on "biglaw" and the parasitic temp agencies, but at the end of the day, it's not helping anybody out in any real way.

So maybe the most obvious thing to wonder is why we aren't trying to unionize. A friend of mine who is a biglaw associate recently asked me this. And I struggled to come up with a good answer. I guess what people think is that people would cross the lines, because we're all so desperate for money, what with bills and loans. And that's a valid concern. But isn't that the case with all industries that have unionized? Sure, it's true that the temp factories are filled with people who will work under any condition, endure any injustice or humiliation. What I've found is that more and more, temp attorneys are immigrants who scraped by at Joe's #1 Law School and got the lowest passing score on the 5th try at taking the bar. And in any other situation, their resume wouldn't be considered next to that of somebody who went to a top tier law school and graduated near the top of the class. But here, where speed is the only criterion for job success, everybody who can click quickly and keep their mouth shut is equal.

I think it's about time. The economy is tanking, and attorneys all over the place are being let go. It's only going to get worse unless the people who do this job day in and day out start doing something to demand better treatment.

So what I propose is that you, along with the other temp attorney bloggers who may have some kind of audience, start to use this position as a means to start organizing. Here's a very interesting link to a page that describes how to unionize a workplace: http://incolor.inebraska.com/uswa286/howtounionize.html.

I hope you will post this and get people thinking about it.

Thanks

60 comments:

Anonymous said...

The 'people crossing the line' problem was succesfully addressed over a century ago. It's called the 'brick to the head' solution.

Trollop said...

I'm just a dirty old troll, but you guys really need to unionize. HELL YEAH! There is no other solution. Otherwise, there will be no respect whatsoever. That is actually sticking it to the man! The internet can allow the appropriate communicaion (Get it started HERE), and although you guys haven't been respected, you know the law, right?

Man, regulations that give you a fifteen minute break every two hours, regularity to wages, a means of bringing some of the petty stuff from the Anitas to a due process...it can be done!

Tom, this really needs to happen! It worked for our grandfathers who broke their backs with physical labor, and it can happen to those who populated accredited law schools, expecting the market to at least resemble the market for law schools.

Could a union fight a war on two fronts--fair labor practices as well as regulating the stats law schools fraudulently put out?

As Obama's supporters said, "Yes we can! Yes we can! Yes we can!"

Anonymous said...

Good to see Tom posting.

Anonymous said...

He just got out of rehab.

Anonymous said...

Looks like the posse has turned on their leader! HA HA

And good luck with that union. What a joke. What is this, the 20th time you idiots have proposed this?

Anonymous said...

Yeah, good time to start making demands...when there're a million jobless attorneys out there begging for temp jobs. Go ahead, tell them you want better treatment. They'll laugh in your face and hire the next guy! Maybe it's time to look for a new profession.

Anonymous said...

it's just pissing in the wind. They have unions over at Ford and GM too, and those jobs were exported a long time ago.

Anonymous said...

Ford and GM fucked over their workers 20 years ago by shipping jobs overseas, demoralized their workforce, stifled innovation, and decimated their surrounding Michigan middle class communities all in the name of short-term greed. Now, years later, their cush cush CEO's are flying down to Washington in their corporate jets asking for CEO welfare. Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I like the idea of a union, but to make it work you literally have to be willing to stand on a line and take a beating and bleed and then get arrested. Most lawyers are cowards, which is why they went to law in the first place, they thought it would be safe. Union activity is not safe. Any one willing to die for the union? Because thats what it takes.

Anonymous said...

Physicians, accountants, and lawyers, often fall for Ponzi schemes because of the way they think. You all need to realize that you have no chance of success in law, so you have nothing to lose if you form a union/guild. You are not going to make it as lawyers. If you were you would not be so upset with your life. Remember, the most dangerous people are those who think they have nothing to lose. Those people scare the people with a lot to lose. Use this knowledge to inspire action.

Anonymous said...

The idea of a union is pathetic. Those of you that still have work, back to clicking.

Babu, that means you too!

Anonymous said...

There is talk of a HUGE project through Robert Half in Boston. Does anyone know where this is? They are having all the contractors sign confidentiality agreements. I would love to get on it but not through them. I heard they are building a review center and need hundreds of people.

Anonymous said...

Sullivan only takes very overweight people as litigation analysts. Does anyone know the rationale behind this?

Anonymous said...

mo' fat = mo' money? They can earn extra $$$ in the cafe.

Anonymous said...

Unionization = Fail

You have a better chance of protecting your future job security by convincing everyone you know not to go to law school.

Anonymous said...

If there are no jobs, if BigLaw firms are losing clients, if in-house are cutting back on use of outside counsel (and choosing arbitraiton to complex mDL litigation), just what are you unionizing for at this time in history...you have NO bargaining power or leverage......did you ever take a "Negotiations" class in law school or during your MBA? Get real, there is no business....the pie has gotten smaller. If GM and the others go through reorg, liquidate, or are absorbed by another automaker (iof even Toyota), guess what- Detroit, Cleveland, Pittsburg, and Chicago lawyers (all who understand well unions) will merely start going back to engineering school or maybe open up storefronts to represent everyone on breadlines.......get real - there is no work period.

Anonymous said...

It just how out of touch TTT really is. There has been talk for years about unionizing, but everyone knows that it will never, ever happen.

Just the talk about unionizing sent a large chunk of the work to India.

No question about it, this blog has hurt temps more than it has helped them. Firms just cannot risk having all of the confidential matters and personnel set up and impaled on a blog.

Anonymous said...

Unions only work if you have some leverage. We have none. If we don't work, they will get someone else, and at a lower rate.

Anonymous said...

You don't need a union. Just keep talking.

Anonymous said...

Outsourcing and the 20 year assault on the industrialized middle class helped create this financial crisis.

Anonymous said...

With the new Congress, the union situation should be changing. There is new legislation. This new law will make it easier to organize and make retaliation by employers much, more more difficult.

The chief value of a union is bargaining power, which no on in the temp business has right now.

Firms are not required to give notice. They are not required to provide healthcare benefits in which they contribute some portion of paying the cost. They are not required to honor what they say about length of the project as they would under any other consultantcy situation. In other situations, if a professional is hired for 2 months, then the firm would have to pay for those 2 months, work or no work.

This is possible through bargaining power. There are also right now no grievance processes. No processes of evaluation to make certain that people aren't losing their jobs due to personality disputes rather than legitimate reasons like work product.

The point is that even in a down economy we can see when we look at other employment situations that our status is lesser. Even when being fired, in other industries the outcomes is typically (not always) better.

The money is good, but the basics for making this truly work are not. Then there are additional unnecessary layers of bureacracy created by agencies and third party companies owned by agencies.

Unions would provide a bargaining position from which to address many of these concerns. And, to the people who say- this will mean we lose jobs. You lose them anyway. The question is how. Do you lose them while also being able to move foreward. Or, are you always left on the edge?

Anonymous said...

Scott Krowitz is evil.

Anonymous said...

Unions only work if people anticpate a lifetime of employment in a particular sector. Few who enter the temp world expect to be there forever, so few recognize the value of joining a union when they're just in it for the short haul.

Trollop said...

5:05 is right on. 5:41 misses the motivation for unionizing: a documnt review-based union that adds stability and rights--suddenly less of a "temp" thing, right? Think about it, lawyers have something the firms need. It's not like just anyone can take a temp job--licensure, baby. Ask a NYC teacher how important unions are. UNIONIZE! UNIONIZE! UNIONIZE! All of you haters are just house niggers: "I'm goin' get some watuh tuh put the fire out on Mastuh's roof." What you ought to say is: "The roof! The roof! The roof is on fire..."

Anonymous said...

You chimps will never unionize ever. This discussion is soooooo boring and I've heard it a million times, zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

U r temps, not employees!

Anonymous said...

743 represents the kind of mentality for why most American workers find themselves behind. The reality is that it should no matter if you are temporary or not if an entire industry is predicated on that characteristc. It's a little like when the service worker unions started. People said - well but they aren't manufacture. That's true. So they created a union to reflect their particular issues- SEIU. 632 is also right- teachers do have a union. Actually, so do some lawyers in the public sector. The difference is the mindset of the workers. Not the fact that the characteristics that define the workers. I would guess that the real reason people have not formed unions is that most people who are lawyers in the private sector like to think of themselves as "professionals' and better than unions. They miss the point its not about pride. It's about power. Who has it. Who does not. Right now, we have no bargaining power at all. If the industry were unnionized it would change the dynamic somewhat. It won't make it perfect. But perfect is not the reason you form a union. It's simply about having greater bargaining position than you have right now.

Anonymous said...

It's the debt, stupid. The only reason people do this mindless, demeaning, and dead-end work is because they are stuck in the hamster wheel of ever escalating student loan debt. If you guys really want to organize, you should organize against the law school cartel that keeps opening new schools and charging ever outrageous tuition rates.

Anonymous said...

You are all so stupid. So very very stupid. With the economy the way it is, the debts piling up and the lack of avaialble jobs, unions will never work. For every one of you morons that unionize, there will be ten people waiting who are not unionized, and another 30 in India waiting for the work. What employer would hire a union full of people who think things are owed to them because they went to law school. I hope you do unionize because it will thin the work pool when you all starve to death. Be thankful you all have jobs, I certainly am.

Anonymous said...

Now you 5yrs+ umemployables/clicker can blame "the economy" as the reason you can't get a perm job...

Everyone knows no one wanted your temp resume during the flush times either, hence the long-term temp career - now you are REALLY fucked!!

Anonymous said...

I mentioned the service worker unions for a reason. Most of these people work for minimum wage, or did, in places where the cost of living is high.

I knew there would be several posts pointing out economic condition as a basis for not unionizing.

If you think your economic circumstances are hard, try working for a minimum wage job in the services industries before unionization.

Your posts indicates the real reason a union will never happen- fear.

You went into law to be "safe." Rather than realizing that "safe" is an illusion you keep trying to recreate whatever little bit of imagined safety you can in the short term.

It's better to live with the "hell you know" than the one you can "imagine."

Anonymous said...

Anyone who thinks that unionizing is a solution is living a fat pipe dream.

When the economy is crumbling like this, do you expect that biglaw will continue to utilize contract attorneys - they will, but they will cherry-pick. The questions we've been hearing for years now - why do corporations consent to paying biglaw associates $250/hour for their training is finally being answered by a few corporations, soon to be ALL corporations.

Most doc reviewers love the constant paycheck. I know I certainly do, but when the writing is on the wall about the economy, one has to become resourceful and creative and reach out to other legal practitioners. That means finding work with smaller firms and solo practitioners and other types of agencies (like appearance firms that work with smaller firms) to gain new avenues of incoming-producing work.

Yes, doc review will always be there but for those who rely on doc review to live (or rather, survive) you'll get slaughtered relying only on agencies.

Get ahead of the curve and adapt accordingly.

Anonymous said...

Again...

Other workers in industries in which management had far more power over their workers have unionized.

These workers had far more at stake if management fired them than those posting here do.

This is not theory. It is economic fact. You talk about paying your loans. They were worried about being able to survive.

All these arguments you keep making are instantly proved invalid by examining the history of unionization. You are just making excuses for your own cowardice. The only reason I am uninterested in this beyond academic debate is that I know you are the sorts of people who are not capable of courage.

It is more accurate to say you are whimps, who are too afraid to do anything, than to claim its impossible to unionize. This is just a falsehood you tell yourselves.

Anonymous said...

Then just do it already, stop whining and bitching about.

As far the "union" goes, it's time to put up or shut up. Start the effing unuion or shut the eff up.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. People love to talk, but not act. It's getting old.

Anonymous said...

Unionizing won't work. Law firms will just outsource law work overseas.

Anonymous said...

Law firms have no work to outsource or otherwise. Cravath couldn't meet market yesterday. It is the end of biglaw as we know it. Last one out of the basement turn off the lights.

Anonymous said...

WHY ARE THE SULLIVAN LITIGATION ANALYSTS SO FAT?

If I apply for the job, do I have to be grossly overweight?

Anonymous said...

Only the fattest and nastiest people need apply to these positions.

Anonymous said...

Well, what did you expect? What kind of people do you think apply for jobs that are soul crushing provide for no future career trajectory and require them to have no life outside of the office? Don't expect to be surrounded by people that look like Jessica Simpson.

Anonymous said...

Wow.

Like there wasn't already enough petty backstabbing at S & C. I wonder what things will be like now that the economic grim reaper has appeared.

Watch your backs!

Anonymous said...

It's getting so bad that the agencies are actually entertaining 2-3 week staffing jobs that require two interviews, drug tests, proficiency tests, lowering of hourly rates (some even as flat rates below $35), and tons more superfluous bullshit in helping these deserving firms in these rough times. Makes me wanna puke!

Anonymous said...

Temp agencies are pimps.
Temps are whores.
You did work you really don't want to do, hours you don't want to work, the pimps get a piece of your money, and when they are done with you they throw you to the curb.

---------END THREAD--------------

Anonymous said...

Boy the folks on this blog just love to whine! Even if y'all were successful at being associates at big law firms, y'all would still whine about how your bonus was not big enough. Now that the economy is bad and the temp jobs are going away, you are crying about how the jobs you hated are now going away.

Btw, look at every industry that unionized and see where it stands. Unions make the cost of doing business so high in the states, that they have no choice but to go overseas. I mean, look what the unions did to the auto, airline, steel, etc.

Anonymous said...

Oh, yes, please unionize. That's exactly what lawyers need to do. Poor, underrepresented attorneys. Lawyers practically are unionized, what with lock-step pay and firms that have fallen all over themselves to give astronomical raises and even more outrageous bonuses. Everyone posts their firm's salaries, bonuses, and everything else to make sure the firms feel the pressure to best one another but it's never enough, is it? So you work ungodly hours -- that's what you signed up for, and that's why you get paid the ridiculous base salaries. Maybe try saving some of that money instead of pissing it all away and holding your hand out for more. Loans and bills are expensive, to be sure, but you all can cut back like everyone else. Buh-bye.

Anonymous said...

Unions won't work. Firms will just go with non-union workers. Agencies won't use unionized workers and the union itself won't be able to corner the market. New graduaes need jobs and non-new graduates need to put food on the table. The moment your livelihood is threatened you're done. Unions work when you're the only possible source of labor for a single employer--and when that employer is contractually bound to support you and when you can picket outside of the factory gats. Here there are hundreds of factories and there are going to be non-union workers everywhere.

we're screwed. I wish we could get union-type benefits, but we're too diffuse. Hell, say we unionize here (in NYC), they'll just start using CT or NJ contract attys...or attys in FL or TX. there's no chance of success here.

Litination said...

It may be the end of biglaw, but it's at least worth laughing every now and then as the ship is sinking.

-The Court Jester

Litination.com - "The Truth, The Half Truth and Nothing Like the Truth ... So Help Me Law."

Anonymous said...

UNION COST

Union costs like claims about minimum wages are actually a lie. The auto companies are hurting for 2 reasons: a) the credit cruntch which management failed to hedge against and b) building cars no one wants to buy (again a management decision). If you don't believe me, look it up.

You people are retarded. I can't talk to retarded people because I will eventually become one. Much of what is posted here for anyone who is truly interested about union economics, politics and law can be researched. You know- those niffty skills you are wasting. Peace out. I got better things to do than talk to the terminally act-against-my-own-interest types.

Anonymous said...

http://abovethelaw.com/2008/11/work_slowdown_at_sullivan_crom.php

Anonymous said...

Big Law got WAY too greedy and now their business model of profit-per-partner will have to adapt or fail. Corporations decided its no longer worth it (and probably never was!) to pay $500-$1000 per hour to defend cases they know they are going to lose in the long run. Plaintiffs lawyers no longer have a leg to stand on due to recent legislation.

Defense lawyers no longer have a reason to exist because plaintiffs lawyers are no longer filing as many cases.

Transactional was good until the economy fell off a cliff. Now? Not so much...real estate and finance have disappeared altogether.

My prediction is that temporary work will actually INCREASE because it provides more flexibility to corporations looking to cut legal costs. Unfortunately this gain will be offset by the now even larger supply of lawyers in the job market. Damned if you do, damned if you don't they say.

Anonymous said...

12:46-

And yet another clarvoyant temp in our midst! Do you read palms too?

Anonymous said...

enjoy clicking while it lasts!

Anonymous said...

Let's see advocating unions, done by attorneys no less. Are you an adherent to the "secret" ballot as well, flying in the face of free speech and individual rights....unions do nothing for their rank and file, they line their own pockets e.g. that is, the leadership in unions, they are a joke....it is more of a joke to apply it to attorneys - a professional already in trouble by the fact of there being too many attorneys, poorly educated in basics of a classical education, and most of whom no sane client would hire to represent them, lest they fail.....get real...if you are looking for job security, try bartending or waitressing....heh, they've got a union and they do nothing but take your dues automatically deducted weekly from your miserly paycheck.......that you hopefully offset with tips....get real get real get real, grow up.

Anonymous said...

Whoever keeps posting how everyone is stupid and they know everything about unions, why dont you do it? If it is such a great idea, and it will work, why dont you do it? Shut up about how smart you are, and do something.

Anonymous said...

The economy is messing things up for the temp jobs. Less work means the associates get it and the temp projects are smaller. Give it some time and things will work out (6 months is my guess). Why don't you do something useful in the mean time -- the lack of temp jobs (and easy mindless money) might be a good thing; it'll force temps to go out there and get the experience they need instead of sitting in front of a computer.


Unions -- there's no real need for them. People open solo practices. This is impossible for teachers or automobile workers. The advantage of being a lawyer is that you don't HAVE to work for someone. If you're an assembly line worker, airplane mechanic, dock worker, etc., you have to have an employer.

Fat chicks as temps -- they sit in a chair and click for 60+ hours a week. The agencies and firms like this and they get promoted. However, that type of behavior is unhealthy over the long term and results in obesity. Thin people won't sit there for 60 hours mindlessly clicking on stuff. After a few months they take the lower paying associate jobs.

Temping for 5+ years -- I wouldn't hire anybody like that either (unless they were in private practice or running a buisness). Any normal person will A) take a job for 45K, B) change careers, or C) open a solo practice. Plus, anybody that will sit in front of a computer reading docs for 5 years isn't exactly interested in practicing law. Also, it's a prima facia case that they let some sales guy with BA and paralegals push them around. That's not exactly who you want fighting for you in court.


My advice -- wait out the recession and then find a small/midsize firm job. Lose the expensive Manhatten apartment and move to one of the borroughs. Alternatively, set up a web page, pay malpractice, and get on a referral service while you're temping (by the way this is another reason the firms like people to work OT -- it eliminates the solo practitioner).

The other option is to get out of law and don't look back. If you're more interested in clicking away at documents than in working as a lawyer, then law probably isn't for you.

Anonymous said...

7:48 - Are you dreaming? A new attorney can't start out as a solo, esp in a large city like New York. You are better off opening up a Dunkin Donuts franchise. America is absolutely glutted with entry-level attorneys and the situation is only getting worse. The real thing that is keeping people trapped in the temp grinder for years on end is the law school debt. Law school tuition has been far outpacing inflation for years now. Most people temp not because they are lazy or don't have it in them to practice law, but because they need the money to earn a meager living while making good on their massive loan debts. Things are only going to get worse with more law schools, higher debt loads, and higher interest rates.

Anonymous said...

So, defer your loans. You don't have to pay them (at least the Stafford) if you don't have the money.

If you hate law, why don't you get out. Now is a good oportunity. You can also defer the loans if you go back to school and get an MS in something useful (computer programing or some kind of health field).

Opening a solo practice is doable. Shared office space in Queens, Brooklyn, the Bronx, Long Island, etc. is affordable. However, if you want to live in Manhatten in your $1600 a month apartment, or pay a mortgage on a house, then it isn't.

Anonymous said...

$1600 Manhattan apartment? In your dreams.

Anonymous said...

Gee, 8:50 how many potential clients have YOU spoken to???? I have a feeling the number is ZERO. I've spoken to many & I've been licensed about a year. The things I have going for me are A) luck, B) making an effort to network w/others, C) taking steps to MAKE things happen instead of sitting back & ALLOWING things to happen, D) looking at the right places & E) listening to what lawyer seekers have to say. It also helps that I'm in a niche area where there aren't many new lawyers & none doing exactly what I'm doing. I also have a client who volunteered to be my benefactor & who has serious clout to deliver on things (I'm starting my own firm w/a super experienced lawyer & an experienced lawyer/business professional serving as equal partners). Funny that the potential clients I spoke to said cost & putting in effort was more important to them than decades of experience. I also know other new attorneys who ARE setting up solo work & doing JUST fine--you don't HAVE to have a Manhattan office, home or even a secretary/paralegal.

You whiners shouldn't be allowed to call yourselves "lawyers" b/c you'd never advocate for clients unless everything was perfectly in their favor. You'd tell someone to just give up & continue being pushed around by someone instead of trying to take a chance that the client could win if you did something that may or may NOT work. That's NOT a lawyer; that's a Wal-Mart employee. How about just doing that since you've got the perfect mindset for it????

Anonymous said...

Layoffs at Sullivan & Cromwell?? They need to lay off someof those numbskull litigation analysts high on drugs. Man, those idiots, I can't believe someone hired them!! They are worse than the contract attorneys -- just more desparate!!

Anonymous said...

Jesus, the commenters on this site are a bunch of retards. I feel dumber after having read all this.