Making it to midlevel in Biglaw isn’t simple — particularly within the wake of a pandemic. First, you needed to break into Biglaw (which might be fairly troublesome, particularly in the event you didn’t go to a prime regulation faculty or earn prime grades). Next, you needed to survive the excessive stress and lengthy hours. Then, you wanted to endure and in some way persevere by means of the extremely unsure occasions COVID-19 introduced upon the authorized career and the world at giant (although we’re positive the particular bonuses and pay raises needed to have helped a bit). Finally, you needed to keep away from layoffs whereas coping with the return to the workplace in a post-COVID world, and all the shenanigans that got here together with it.
Phew! That was no simple job, however in the event you did make it to your agency’s midlevel ranks in the course of the previous few years, it was arguably tougher than ever — and these associates have merely had sufficient. The American Lawyer simply launched its midlevel associates survey, and as famous by Dan Roe, “measures to right the balance sheet don’t have to kill associate morale when firm leaders are transparent and willing to shoulder some of the burden themselves.” He goes on to elucidate that sadly, that hasn’t precisely been the midlevel expertise in any respect companies:
Law companies are hounding associates on billable hours and getting stingier about bills. Stealth layoffs are going unacknowledged, breeding panic and resentment amongst affiliate ranks. Sensing a labor market benefit, companies are reneging on versatile work insurance policies that helped them land expertise and prompted associates’ cross-country strikes. At companies the place there’s a normal sense that issues are getting worse, a scarcity of transparency round these and different choices solely followers the flames.
To give you these outcomes, Am Law requested midlevel associates to guage how happy they’re with their agency on a wide range of completely different questions: compensation and advantages; coaching and steering; relations with companions and different associates; curiosity in and satisfaction stage with the work; the agency’s coverage on billable hours; and administration’s openness about agency methods and partnership probabilities. And what got here up repeatedly in respondents’ solutions? This yr, agency tradition is within the crosshairs, and billable hours expectations amid a “minor recession” are guilty. It appears that many prime Biglaw companies aren’t “passing the vibe check.”
Some of the regulation companies that took the largest dives in affiliate satisfaction in comparison with 2022 handled monetary struggles because the economic system turned in the midst of final yr. At Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, which fell from twentieth place in affiliate satisfaction final yr to 52nd this yr, a number of associates stated the vibes across the agency bought worse because the deal spigot ran dry.
“The firm culture has changed as the continued ‘financial crisis’ slows work down. Every penny spent is scrutinized,” stated one Cadwalader affiliate. “I understand that it’s about the billable hours, but ‘what happened to everything else you valued during the busy times?’ is a question I ask myself lately.”
Cooley took a dive within the rankings—dropping from twenty second to fifty fifth—and acquired an earful in open-ended responses from associates who famous the stark change in morale as hours dried up and layoffs started rolling by means of the agency.
“We preach ‘Be Cooley’ but that only applies when times are good,” stated a Cooley affiliate. “When work slows, partners turn from being these ‘cool, fun’ people into rude, dismissive, cruel people.” Another affiliate stated the agency’s perspective shifted from “we appreciate you” to “you are lucky to be here” after mass layoffs in late 2022. The agency additionally chafed some associates by strongly encouraging a return to the workplace—which some associates took as a mandate amid layoffs—after beforehand permitting distant work.
Another huge rea of concern for midlevels was workplace attendance mandates. Everyone continues to benefit from the flexibility of working from residence, however being pressured to work from the workplace actually put a damper on midlevel associates’ expertise. The name for associates to return to the workplace has been met with nice displeasure — particularly as a result of it appears to be all sticks and never sufficient carrots:
Midlevels are coming to phrases with rising workplace attendance mandates, though most had been adamant that three days per week was loads of facetime with their coworkers. Rather, associates’ largest complaints round returning to the workplace had been directed at companies’ lack of effort in making the workplace well worth the commute.
“If you’re going to implement return to office, invest in workplace culture (more than free food),” stated one Cooley affiliate. “We need time outside of billable hours to build teams and do professional development.”
That stated, free meals was sufficient of a carrot for a stunning variety of associates.
That stated, let’s get all the way down to the rankings. The full listing is offered right here, however these are the companies that make the highest 25 by way of midlevel satisfaction:
- O’Melveny & Myers
- McDermott Will & Emery
- Morgan Lewis
- Blank Rome
- Gibson Dunn
- Baker & Hostetler
- Proskauer Rose
- Paul Hastings
- Manatt Phelps & Phillips
- Goulston & Storrs
- Clifford Chance
- Hughes Hubbard & Reed
- Snell & Wilmer
- Winston & Strawn
- Fried Frank
- Munger Tolles & Olson
- Akin Gump
- Ropes & Gray
- Cahill Gordon
Congratulations to all of the companies that made the listing! And congratulations to the midlevels who’ve jobs they’re comparatively pleased with… all issues thought-about.
The 2023 Midlevel Associates Survey: The Rankings [American Lawyer]
How to Kill Your Culture in a Minor Recession, According to Midlevels [American Lawyer]
Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, the place she’s labored since 2011. She’d love to listen to from you, so please be at liberty to electronic mail her with any suggestions, questions, feedback, or critiques. You can observe her on Twitter and Threads or join together with her on LinkedIn.