Thursday, March 12, 2009

For Shame

So, Paul Hastings announced some layoffs earlier this week. This time around, they are calling them "layoffs" instead of pretending that they are performance-based terminations. I also understand from associates in the firm that they are no longer requesting that laid-off attorneys sign non-disclosure agreements. Also, the management is going out of its way to assure the employees that the layoff is based not on performance, but on the economy.

Even as recently as last month, Paul Hastings was claiming that its layoff of 15% of the associates in the Atlanta office was somehow based on job performance even though the firm had not yet conducted any performance reviews. It was also apparently trying to keep its stealth layoffs in LA and Shanghai under the radar.

From the way Paul Hastings partners have been trolling the comment section on Above the Law to write in asinine defense of the firm, they apparently do care about their public image. I've heard from friends who still work there that after my email was posted on Above the Law, partners pleaded with associates to post positive comments about the firm on the site. I've also heard that the head management begged associates not to make negative comments about the firm on blogs. It's all rather pathetic.

Apparently, some companies have to be shamed into doing the right thing. We could all have saved ourselves a lot of time and bad PR if they had the brains to figure out the meaning of decency on their own.

PS - As one of the readers pointed out, Paul Hastings is admitting to their layoffs only because Latham already announced theirs. Of course. They aren't motivated by shame. They are - and will be - industry followers to their dying day.


  1. Good to hear they're calling them layoffs and totally agree with you on your points.

  2. I, for one, will never work for Paul Hastings based on how they have treated you and the people who were laid off after you. If I ever make it to a point in my career where I can choose counsel, I will also stay away from Paul Hastings.

  3. It sounds like Paul Hastings is finally doing what you consider the right thing. So why the twist at the end making it sound like they are still doing the wrong thing? Is it perhaps your own slant and unwillingness to give them credit when the company finally does something right?

  4. Anonymous at 5:54,

    I don't know if you're some Paul Hastings partner, but the firm still treated people like shit and did not address that. I'll continue to talk about this for a good while. The bad PR ain't over. Good thing I didn't sign the NDA, huh?

  5. Hi Shinyung,
    Absolutely, one's integrity/pride/voice cannot be bought off with money. I've only just come to know your story (almost one year late!) but I really applaud you. I'm an attorney working for the federal government and I'd encourage you to explore government attorney jobs. Nothing can be truly recession proof, but government jobs come pretty close. Good luck.

  6. Shinyung:

    I am responding to your response to Anonymous @ 5:54 am.

    While I agree with much of (or just about everything) what you have said so far about the dishonesty of law firms, etc., I think you should consider moving on from this.

    You are now pregnant, you have a budding writing career. You have said what needed to be said, and many many people agree with you, why continue to dwell on it? I have to say that your comment here sounded bitter. Hence, my response here.

    And no, I am not affiliated in any way with your prior firm.

  7. S--I'm your former Lexis rep at PH--so glad to hear you're doing so well! Congrats on the pregnancy as well. I could not agree more with your position/comments. My first year class was decimated way back in 2003 under the guise of "performance-based" terminations, which is such a crock. Glad it's finally out in the open. Cheers! ~christina

  8. Interesting post at ATL regarding the attempt to keep the sleaze under wraps and maintain a phony image:

  9. Shinyoung- What could the firm have done to make you OK with your layoff? You were senior, with no business, with no hours. How did you expect to stay on?

  10. Anonymous at 10:18, I think you missed the whole point.

  11. Anonymous at 10:21, I'm not bitter. My comment/post was really directed at the ridiculous Paul Hastings partners who seem to waste time trolling here.

    Glen, interesting article. Can't believe how shamelessly some of these firms behave.

    Christina, so great to hear from you! I've been wondering how you're doing. Drop me an email ( Let's meet for lunch!

    Everyone else, thanks so much for your comments!

  12. More shame:

    If you're going to lay me off because of the economic climate, don't insult me by mandating that I sign something stating that its because of my performance when everyone knows that's not the case.

    I realize this is commonplace, but its still outrageous nonetheless. Keep up the fight Shinyung.

  13. I've only somewhat followed this story on ATL, but I saw this link to your website this morning (on ATL) and was so pleased to see that you are pregnant again! The internet is a funny thing-- I have read your memo and some interviews, but still feel as happy for you as I would one of my friends.

    You are a fine writer and your perspective is refreshing. I agree that many readers, even of your blog, seem to be missing the point. You have given an eloquent voice to the otherwise silent, and I appreciate that.

    Mostly, I wish you health and happiness, and all the best in your efforts to expand your family.

  14. Thank you for speaking the truth about big mean law firms!

  15. I love how people suggest that you should "move on" lest you appear bitter. That's one step away from telling you not to worry your pretty little head about grown up things. It's not rude, bitter or poor taste to shine light on employment practices that thrive in secrecy. Firms have most associates over a barrel in that they NEED the money because who knows when they will find another legal job in this market and so will sign anything and stay silent.

    If firms need to offload people for their bottom line - fine. But don't pretend it's anything other than mismanaged too rapid growth combined with the worst economic meltdown in decades. No need to hang it on the head of some random first year.

  16. Anonymous at 7:22 - I don't get the sense that any of the "move on" sentiments are at all based in a "don't worry your pretty little head about such things" tone. I think what people are saying is that Shinyung has said an ample amount about this issue, it's been nearly a year, she's got a lot of good things going for her right maybe it's time to move forward rather than continuing to dwell on the bad events of last year.

    If I'm misstating what others have said, I apologize to them. If I've captured it, then I agree. I don't know that there's a lot more that Shinyung can add to the issue at this point - the world knows how she felt at the time and why she felt that way, and anyone who hasn't been convinced up to this point probably won't. I don't think Paul Hastings really cares; nor do I think any large law firm will ever see bad press and say "Aw man, we were so mean! We should be nicer next time." That's just not how they operate, in my experience.

  17. Anonymous at 6:16,

    I disagree that big firm partners don't care about bad press. They care very much, even if some of them choose to bury their heads in the sand and don't think to alter their behavior in light of the bad press. Some firms have paid significant settlement amounts just to hide some potentially bad PR. They spend enormous amounts on marketing. In my situation, I hear that some partners who were involved in the termination avoided the summer associate program and simply could not look some associates in the eye. Yes, the legal world has heard about this ad nauseum, but not those outside of it. And if a little more bad press gives some of these partners pause, is that so bad? It's not as if I'm sitting around stewing. But if there is an opportunity to talk about it, why not?

  18. They pay large settlements to avoid lawsuits, not bad PR. They spend great amounts on marketing to force good PR; that's not quite the same thing as caring about bad PR. Both the marketing and the settlement eagerness boil down to one thing - controlling the message. It's not that they suffer the bad stuff so horribly, it's that they want to be in control of what's out there.

    It's not that I don't think there are individual partners who feel very uncomfortable about bad outcomes - not at all. But as a group, I think they'd slit any of our throats for a nickel. It really sucks, especially when you spend (or have spent) hundreds of hours upon hours working for these people, missing out on the better part of a life for them. In the end, they see all of us as fungible, and I don't think that's ever going to change.

    So while I agree with you, Shinyung, that giving them pause is good and taking the opportunity to speak may help, I remain unconvinced that it's still your battle to fight. Not to put too fine a point on it, but screw PH! Go keep living your sounds like there's a lot to fill it right now.

  19. Hi, Anonymous,

    I appreciate your sentiments. Yes, they will cut associates when it impacts their nickels, but that's in any business. How they go about doing that makes a difference.

    I do know of potential lawsuits where firms have paid big dollars to avoid the bad PR that could have resulted had the case become public. I've worked with partners who pressure associates to give the firm good ratings on the Vault survey. Bad PR cuts into good PR -- and you bet they care what law students and in-house attorneys think about the firm. If they are sitting around reading Above the Law, which they've essentially told some PH associates, that ain't so bad.

    But at the end of the day, I'm not trying to change law firms. I don't care that much. But if one more law student hears this story, then good. And it's not cutting into my life. Not at all.

    Anyway, enough on this topic! I know we both mean well. Have a great day, and hope you've found a good direction for yourself.