Unless you are trapped underground, you are well aware of the massive layoffs taking place across the country in just about every major (and not so major) law firm. Associates have obviously been hit the hardest, and the results are not pretty. Thousands of young attorneys with minimal experience, lots of debt and no jobs are looking for high paying firm jobs where none exist. It’s depressing, to say the least.
But one firm has done something that could serve as a creative alternative to the mass associates cuts. Simpson Thacher & Bartlett announced the creation of a new Public Service Fellowship Program, through which associates can take one year to work on a public service project of their choosing, and at the end of the year, the firm will give them the option of returning to the firm. During the year-long fellowship, an associate who participates will receive a $60,000 stipend from the firm.
To me, this is the perfect alternative to cutting associate jobs. Lord knows there are plenty of non-profit legal organizations and public services agencies who would gladly host a public interest fellow, and while $60,000 is significantly less than the salaries of Simpson Thacher associates, I like to think that even the greediest of associates would consider taking this opportunity to give back in exchange for not losing one’s job. Plus, the firm saves significant money on associate salaries for the year of the service project and won’t have to interview for new associates when the economy bounces back (because it WILL bounce back, no matter how bad things appear right now).
So, which firms are going to follow suit? So far, I have not heard of any other firms doing so, but I most certainly hope they do. Anything to slow the layoffs down, increase morale among young attorneys and promote public service work.
Suddenly, I am feeling a bit jealous that there was no massive recession like the current one while I was practicing law at a big firm. That’s just twisted, isn’t it?