When a Layoff is not a Layoff?

When is a layoff not a layoff?  Simple.  When your firm basically says "you suck – find another career."  But we don’t do layoffs. 

Sounds crazy, but this is exactly what Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr is doing.  But don’t call it layoffs.  They’ve, instead, decided that they have a material amount of folks on payroll who don’t meet their standards.  Maybe they should tell their recruiting department to find another career, as well. 

From Jeff Jeffrey of The Blog of Legal Times:

William Perlstein, co-managing partner of the firm, tells the BLT that some associates and counsel have been told that they won’t have jobs at the firm after this coming fall. Perlstein acknowledges that at least some of the cuts are tied to the economic downturn, though he stresses that the firm isn’t having layoffs.

“There is certainly an economic component in situations where you have someone who is doing OK and who would otherwise be kept. But with less work, and if they’re not making the progress they should, they are being told they should start looking for another position,” Perlstein says. “Nobody is being handed a check and told that they have to leave tomorrow. They’re being told they have a number of months to find other work.”

Perlstein says that the reductions for senior associates and counsel come as a result of a new career advancement program that the firm implemented late last year. Under the new program, associates and counsel are either promoted within specified time frames, or told to “pursue other careers” if they aren’t likely to be recommended for advancement. With promotions scheduled for later this year, Perlstein says that for the first time, the firm is issuing advanced warnings to those unlikely to make the cut.

“This isn’t anything formal. It’s is more of a heads up,” Perlstein says.

As I’ve written before about layoffs, different firms take different approaches.  Some are straight forward and honest about their layoffs, while others try to hide them in stealth.  This strategy by Wilmer, however, is new to me.  Wow. 

  • The truth about layoffs appear to me to be about shuffling money from the middle-class to the rich

  • It's not exactly new, it's just a horrifically inept spin on an old method of doing business. In fact, for a long long time, this up-or-out system was SOP at many firms. In this market, though, it just doesn't work (the dearly departed can't pretend they're "otherwise qualified but looking for other opportunities").

    We wrote about this a few months ago here http://lawshucks.com/2009/02/more-hypocrisy-in-st… but no one to date had been so cavalier about it. If it walks like a duck…