On Friday, March 30, associates at the top 20 law firms rebelled and left work at exactly 5:00 pm in their respective time zones, a whole five hours before their regular time. Angry letters addressed to management indicated that the recent salary increases to $160,000 per annum for first year associates and even more for veteran lawyers were simply not enough. The movement started in New York where the warm weather was just too much for associates cooped up in their offices. The legal world ground to a halt for the entire weekend.
“Those ungrateful trolls,” huffed one managing partner who pointed out that those lucky enough to have a window office were the first to rebel. “They just couldn’t sit there making more money than a small country while the birds were singing outside. Oh, wait, I’m the one making more than a small country,” he continued as reporters chased him around the golf course.
Since the walk-out, associates have been coming into work at 11 am and leaving at 5 pm. Some have also started a Blackberry boycott, checking their messages only once after leaving work and not replying to any but the most urgent. When asked what will make them go back to their desks to fill their 2,400 billable hour requirements, many demanded even bigger raises. Others, however, said they will never work more than 40 hours per week again. “I couldn’t stand seeing all those happy college kids on spring break enjoying the weather,” confessed one associate who wished to remain anonymous.
The lack of consensus among associates on whether they would go back to their hours for a raise may be the key to weakening the revolt. “If we offer them a raise to go back to work,” explained a conniving partner, “some of them will take the bait and force the others to rethink their behavior. As long as we have some willing associates, the rest will have to choose between unemployment and returning to work. Of course our profits will be a bit lower, but we can make that up with a rate hike. Sorry clients.”
Associates, however, were not impressed with this logic, “Where do they think they will get enough people to do all the work? It’s not like everywhere you swing a cat you hit a graduating law student,” said one who will not be bought off with a pay raise.
“Are you sure?” his colleague asked. “Last time I swung a cat I hit two lawyers and a consultant. I forget why I was swinging that cat, but that’s besides the point.”
The crisis seems to have taken its toll on firms already. Jenkens & Gilchrist, for example, cited their tax shelter debacle for dissolving, but several whistleblowers among their ranks confessed that the rebellion actually led to the firm’s demise. Only Wachtell seemed safe from the upheaval. “Come on, who would rebel against a double-your-salary bonus?” asked one Wachtell associate that reporters caught up with by the coffee machine at 2 am. He then went back to his office and closed the door, thus ending the interview.
Analysts and head-hunters have been busy predicting the future of the legal profession. One head-hunter was thrilled, “I am now getting hundreds of calls from associates at non-Vault 100 firms who are willing to sell their soul and their free time for the higher pay, trying to replace their rebellious colleagues.”
Large corporate firm clients were worried about the threatened rate hike. “We are beefing up our in-house departments. We can no longer be entirely dependent on hired guns for our lawsuits, countersuits, harassment suits, and general nasty-gram mailings,” explained one prominent CEO during a teleconference from his private jet with platinum rims and gilded wings.
Law school students were thrilled at the possibility of reduced hours and/or higher pay. “I will just wait this out while in school and hopefully when I graduate I can be rolling in money and have the time to enjoy spending it,” confessed a second year student. “I’ll even apply for an LLM if necessary to make sure I don’t enter the workforce at a volatile time. I’m quite risk-averse in case you couldn’t tell.”
Calls to legal recruiting departments at firms and career services offices went unanswered. Online message boards such as Autoadmit.com provided no additional insight; posters seemed too preoccupied with the recent US News & World Report law school rankings and bashing i-banking.