Wake Up Call: Laid-Off In-House Counsel Laments ‘Cruel Business Calculus’

May 7, 2020, 12:49 PM

In today’s column, more Big Law firms made pay cuts and other austerity moves in response to the Covid-19 crisis; Justice Ginsburg is out of the hospital; Florida’s July bar exam is going on as planned, but with masks and temperature checks; a Florida county judge is facing ethics charges after letting reality TV producers into her courtroom. Stroock is leading a pro bono coalition that aims to provide legal help to small businesses and other organization hit by Covid-19; Pillsbury’s London office hired a former Jones Day corporate partner.

  • Leading off, the former corporate counsel at Salary.com, Colin Levy, yesterday announced on Twitter and LinkedIn that he’d been laid off from his job of about two years at the Massachusetts-based compensation data, software and consulting firm. “I have lost my job. It was brutal,” he said adding, “I, now like so many others, was subject to the same cruel business calculus as others and now join those countless others who are unemployed.” His posts drew many responses of consolation. (Twitter) (Corporate Counsel)

  • The calculus of Covid-19 austerity cuts in the legal profession is hitting a lot of people, but not in the same way. Transatlantic firm Hogan Lovells told employees in an email that although the firm’s overall position is “very solid,” effective June 1 it’s cutting pay for partners and lawyers to offset an expected deterioration of revenues. People making under $100,000 won’t be affected. Several weeks ago, the firm announced delays to bonuses and 2019 profit draws for partners. (Above the Law)

  • Other Big Law firms making cuts include Eversheds Sutherland ‘s U.S. branch and Mayer Brown, which made extensive pay cuts and delayed its summer associate program; Nixon Peabody confirmed layoffs it made earlier and it cut associate pay. It also delayed the start date of its summer associate program. (American Lawyer)

  • Kirkland & Ellis said it’s taking its summer program “virtual” and cutting it down to two weeks, but it will provide job offers to summer associates graduating law school in 2021. (BLAW)

  • As firms cut equity partners’ profit draws, they face the question of what to do about pay packages that were guaranteed to recent lateral hires. (BLAW)

  • In the United Kingdom, major law firms are furloughing staff but they’re using pay cuts for lawyers, instead, to avoid potential bad publicity when lawyers take public assistance money. (Financial Times) That story is part of a new special report on “lawyers in a crisis.” (Financial Times)

  • Stroock is leading a pro bono coalition of over a dozen Big Law firms and legal aid organizations aimed at providing free legal help to New York small businesses, self-employed, nonprofits, and cooperatives most directly hit by Covid-19. (SBLRA.org)

  • Lawyers from around the country are taking on pro bono projects related to Covid-19. (American Lawyer)

  • Can employers legally require workers to have their temperatures taken every day before they start work? A new American Bar Association post considers this and other new workplace legal issues that Covid-19 has raised for employers. (ABALegalFactCheck.com)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was released from a Baltimore hospital after being treated for a benign gallbladder condition. She participated in two telephone arguments from the hospital earlier Wednesday. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)

  • DLA Piper said President Trump’s former secretary of defense, General Jim Mattis, and former U.S. Ambassador to Nato Nick Burns will be on its May 11 webinar discussing Covid-19’s implications for global economies and international cooperation, as well as the importance of leadership. (DLAPiper.com)

  • A New York City landlord is suing The Gap Inc. in Manhattan federal court over the San Francisco-based retailer’s failure to pay rent on its Midtown retail space during the Covid-19 pandemic. (New York Law Journal) (Bloomberg News)

  • McKool Smith announced that veteran bankruptcy lawyer John Sparacino has joined its Houston office as a principal. He spent close to 23 years at Andrews Kurth, including as a partner, and arrives from Vorys, Sater, Seymour and Pease. (McKoolSmith.com)

  • The Wall Street Journal offered its take on the trend of law firms beefing up their bankruptcy and restructuring practices because of the pandemic. (WSJ)

  • A Florida judge is facing ethics charges after allowing producers of a reality TV show into her courtroom. (Daily Business Review)

  • Offshore firm Appleby advised on the creation of a Cayman Islands foundation to manage a private sector-led Covid-19 recovery and relief fund for the Cayman Islands, starting out with $1 million. (ApplebyGlobal.com)

  • Paul Weiss advised Alexion Pharmaceuticals on its $1.41 billion acquisition of Portola Pharmaceuticals, Inc., which was advised by Cooley. Skadden Arps advised Centerview Partners, serving as financial advisor to Portola, which has a treatment for reversing effects of blood thinners. (Global Legal Chronicle)

  • Willkie Farr & Gallagher advised investment management firm Franklin Templeton on its acquisition of digital wealth platform AdvisorEngine. (Financial Planning)

Laterals, Moves

  • Akerman appointed two co-managing partners to lead its 130-plus lawyer New York office, its second biggest: real estate finance practice chair Alan Cohen and deputy chair of the labor and employment practice group Matthew Steinberg. They replace corporate partner Carlos E. Méndez-Peñate, who’ll focus on his role as co-chair of the Miami-founded firm’s Latin America and the Caribbean Practice. (Akerman.com)

  • Pillsbury’s London office hired former Jones Day corporate partner Nick Burgess as a senior counsel. With 20 years’ experience, Burgess focuses his cross-border M&A practice on Europe and emerging markets. (Pillsbury)

  • Arnold & Porter hired Venable’s cybersecurity lawyer Jami Mills Vibbert as a New York-based partner on its privacy and data security team. (BLAW)

  • Baker McKenzie recruited Simpson Thacher & Bartlett IP and tech counsel Marcela Robledo as a partner in San Francisco. Robledo among other things was part teams that advised Microsoft on its acquisitions of LinkedIn and Skype, and its sale of Nokia. (The Recorder)

  • Tyson & Mendes promoted litigator Bryan D. Scholnick to managing partner of its Seattle office. (TysonMendes.com)


  • HSBC Holdings plc named its global general counsel Richard Gray as interim replacement for chief legal officer Stuart Levey, who’s leaving to head an association that is stumping for a new digital currency backed by Facebook. Other global banks also made in-house moves. (BLAW)

  • The Wounded Warrior Project Inc., a Florida-based nonprofit serving U.S. military veterans, hired one of its former staff attorneys, Kathryn “Kate” Bongiovanni, as its new general counsel. (BLAW)


  • Carlton Fields launched a consultancy, SQrBlock Solutions, LLC, which it said helps companies in all industrial sectors develop enterprise blockchain-powered applications. (CarltonFields.com)

  • As trial lawyers experiment with new tech because of the pandemic, there has been a wave of innovation in the litigation support industry. (Legal Intelligencer)

  • A Georgia “virtual internship” program is connecting 2L law students with judges. (Daily Report)

Legal Education

  • Florida’s Board of Bar Examiners said the state will hold its July exam as scheduled, and test takers will be required to wear masks and have their temperatures checked. (ABAJournal.com)

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at rMitchell@correspondent.bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at rmintzer@bloomberglaw.com; Darren Bowman at dbowman@bloomberglaw.com

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