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Mayer Brown Trades Associates to Clients' Legal Departments

By Kevin Fayle on June 02, 2009 | Last updated on March 21, 2019
Do you have attorney employees that you need to get rid of, but you feel bad about cutting them off in such an abysmal job market?

Well, then do what Mayer Brown did: farm them out to your clients' legal departments!
According to the Chicago Tribune, the firm has offered to ship out several of its young attorneys to be in house counsel for clients like United Airlines parent UAL Corp. and Kraft Foods Inc. in lieu of a layoff.  The associates get a one year guarantee of employment, but have to take a minimum pay cut of $100,000. 

That's right, Mayer is setting the salary for this year of work at $60,000, plus benefits.  After the year is up, the firm doesn't guarantee any further employment.

Give the firm some credit for helping out the younger associates who might have a harder time finding work after a layoff.  The strategy seems like it could backfire, though.

For the client, it's a no-brainer.  They get a highly qualified young attorney for free, and don't have to offer them employment once the year is up (unless they want to.)  Mayer gets to keep its young talent in the bullpen, saves some money and builds up some client goodwill. 

Ah, but there's the rub.  What if these attorneys decide that they don't like this new arrangement all that much?  What if they determine that the company is giving them too much work for a measly 60K and decide to blow off the job? 

Well, they'd probably be fired, first of all, but it could also damage client relationships if it leads to any serious impact on the company's business.  The firm could suffer some real loss of prestige if even one of the attorneys turns out to be a dud.

But I'm sure Mayer Brown has considered this, and is confident that the young associates are terrified of having to face the prospect of open-ended unemployment and so will be on their best behavior while working with their clients.

The thing is, they're probably right.

See Also:
Eight Mayer Brown Associates Take $100K-Plus Pay Cut to Work In-house (ABA Journal Daily News)
One Alternative to Being Laid Off: A $100,000 Pay Cut for an In-House Job (AmLaw Daily)
Mayer Brown 's Latest Perk: A $100,000 Pay Cut (Legal Blog Watch)

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