Earlier this week, we highlighted a rather ominous quote from a Biglaw managing partner concerning associate bonuses. “Firms are being much stricter about attendance and tying it to bonuses and retention, because they can now,” said Andrew Detherage of Barnes & Thornburg. “A year ago, they couldn’t.” But now — amid a negative financial outlook for the largest of law firms that’s come at the same time as a tech industry implosion that’s led to layoffs en masse — it looks like they’re ready, willing, and able to do so.
The allure of free food wore off quickly for associates, and ever since, Biglaw firms have been having trouble getting employees to abide by their new in-office attendance policies. Today, firms are looking to leverage associates’ bonuses and even their job security against time spent at their desks.
“Now it’s, ‘If you’re not coming in, there’s going to be consequences,’” Michelle Fivel, a partner at recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, who specializes in placing associates, told the American Lawyer. “Whether that’s losing your job or maybe not getting bonuses, or maybe that carrot of just, ‘Hey, if you’re not around, you’re not developing.’ That skill development. So, there is this concern about how this is going to affect the rest of your career.”
Fivel said she heard this week about a partner who said that lawyers who didn’t consistently show up to the office about three days a week “probably won’t be here too much longer.”
“That’s as strong as it gets, I think,” she said. “Firms don’t do that kind of stuff when they are not holding the most power in the job market. And the thing is, that pendulum is always swinging back and forth. But it’s swung pretty quickly back to the employers’ domain.”
The new normal for associates is starting to look a whole lot like the old normal for associates, with their firms in complete control. If they want their full bonuses — and if they want to avoid being seen as a candidate for stealth layoffs — it may be time to head on back to the office.
Law Firms Start Tying Office Attendance to Job Security and Bonuses [American Lawyer]
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.