Decimation at Mayer Brown

Romansoldier Two thousand years ago, the Roman army had a form of extreme military discipline to punish mutinous or cowardly soldiers. They would be lined up along a cliff's edge and every tenth soldier would be killed. The word "decimation" is derived from Latin meaning "removal of a tenth."  A modern analogy would be Mayer Brown's termination of 10% of its partners. 

Just as the Roman emperor was asked in the arena whether a gladiator would live or die, bloggers are judging the law firm's workplace death sentence. Here's a roundup:

Thumbs up:

  • Above the Law: "You handed a bunch of unprofitable geezers their walking papers. So what? That's the way the Biglaw works in this day and age. You don't attain profits per partner in excess of a million by coddling the useless. "
  • Legal Week editor's blog: "Mayer Brown Cull is Long Overdue.
  • Life in the Great Midwest: "the logical action to take is to cull the less-productive partners to make slots for the up and comers, even though the firm isn't facing any lack of overall profitability."

Thumbs down:

  • Minding the Law's Business: "Mayer Brown still gets an "F" for public relations in my attempted to justify the move in a manner that screamed simple "denominator management" in order to line further the pockets of a bunch of greedy lawyers who'd eat their young and, to paraphrase Chuck Colson, would walk over their own grandmothers for more money."
  • In Search of Perfect Client Service: "Mayer Brown fired 45 partners--men and women who have sacrificed for the firm and who have families to feed and kids to put through college.  The reason?  Well, Mayer Brown's profits per partner were only $1.1 million per partner."
  • LawBiz: "Mayer Brown's rationale, to be more competitive, is a sham and for public consumption."
  • Lawfuel: "The purge of almost 10 per cent of the Chicago partners - almost Stalinist in scope - is unprecedented."
  • Greedy Associates: "I work at MB. It's a sinking ship. The fired 45 partners. Associates will be next. Huge problems in the NY office - rumors are that they will "restructure" it (i.e. fire everybody and rebuild it). Everybody is good place to work."
  • Greedy Associates again: "MB is letting go of 45 partners and may turn on associates next in its search for the success that has deservedly eluded it for a significant period. The firm appears to have no direction and I would think you're better-off elsewhere."
  • Carolyn Elefant: "what comes around goes around. By firing partners to retain more profits, Mayer Brown may someday find itself on a client's chopping block, terminated from service because it charges too much."
  • Legal Pad: "Such cold-blooded calculation is nothing new for firms."
  • Futurelawyer: "They Shoot Horses, don't they?"
  • Eric Mazzone's blog: "Don't get too comfortable."
  • Amazing Firms, Amazing Practices: "This sudden and public move sends a message that is less than positive.  Why?"
  • The Legal Marketing Blog: "The biggest injustice..for which the firm is most likely guilty is both its failure to train these partners earlier in their careers about marketing, and for not insisting that they actually carry out effective business development techniques..."

No guts, no opinion:

  • The Volokh Conspiracy - an academic affiliate for Mayer Brown: Nothing. Not a word. 
  • Professor Stephen Bainbridge: "Did Mayer, Brown comport itself with "the punctilio of an honor the most sensitive"? Is that really the relevant standard? Discuss."
  • Ideoblog: "this situation doesn't involve an abuse of open-ended fiduciary discretion, and therefore is inappropriate for a Meinhard-type fiduciary analysis....Any questions?" (He goes on for 500 words like this.)

If I missed your post, please email me and I'll include you in the list.

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