Law Practice

'This Isn't Working Out': How Lawyers Are Really Fired


For every high-profile, publicized axing of a well-known partner or abrupt, behind-the-scenes removal of an BigLaw associate from his or her office, there are far more “quiet firings.”

Most often given by the bigwigs conducting a lawyer’s annual review, the break-up speech is commonly a “subtle, general disengagement”—so low-key, in fact, that it can sometimes be misunderstood, according to a New York Lawyer (reg. req.) reprint of a Daily Report opinion piece.

Consequently, its anonymous author, “the Snark,” offers readers some translations of what certain buzz phrases used in such scenarios actually mean. Among them: “We think maybe you would be happier somewhere else. Let’s reassess where you are in six months.”

The smart attorney, hearing such comments, makes no attempt to plead his or her case for continued employment with the higher-ups or work harder to repair perceived performance deficiencies. Instead, this is the time to start working half-days, hit the golf links and aggressively seek another position.

Otherwise, the Snark explains, “In 180 days, your direct deposit will shut down, your parking pass will be invalidated, your entry card will self-destruct and you will cease to be employed here.” But, in fact, a brighter, albeit more labor-intensive, future awaits attorneys able to read the tea leaves and deploy a dignified exit strategy, the column points out: “There is another BigLaw firm out there just waiting to snap you up! They love laterals!”

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