{ "media_type": "text", "post_content": "How often do associates actually get fired? This group seems to always imply the firm would fire you if given the chance, but in 3 years I’ve never seen anyone fired.", "post_id": "60e73bfab804d60024a7a517", "reply_count": 33, "vote_count": 10, "bowl_id": "5df70ed2f7169f002b172d3f", "bowl_name": "Big Law" }

How often do associates actually get fired? This group seems to always imply the firm would fire you if given the chance, but in 3 years I’ve never seen anyone fired.

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Firing rarely gets publicized. But some of the folks who lateraled out may have got some warning signs in their recent reviews that this wasn’t the long term firm for them and some hints to start looking. Especially if more senior, I see people pushed into seconding at clients etc in hopes they will exit. Sometimes works out best for all involved.

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C2, agreed with what you’re saying. I think the best thing people can be is honest. We frequently get opportunities that are not conveyed to certain people because we don’t know they’d be interested, and dont want to give them the idea that we want them to leave or that someone has a problem with their work. If we knew they were interested in in house or other opportunities we would definitely convey those. Our business is basically a big exercise in not saying what you want because people are scared of how it will be received. The chance of making partner is so small that any rational person should be considering their options. My firm has worked really hard to make people feel safe conveying those ideas just in case something opens up.

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People are getting hooked on the word “fired.” Firms push people out every year or every six months normally. The idea is to right size your classes every year. The number of people pushed out depends on how much natural attrition there has been. There’s some art to it because business is variable and hiring is expensive, so you’d rather hang on to someone a little too long than not long enough. Work suck outs are why you see high volume layoffs. They were also popular during the recession because fewer exit ops meant attrition was low. Now while attrition is high and work is abundant, firms don’t need to lay people off as much. When it settles down they will. The only other ways you get fired are 1) pissing someone off so much that they fire you in a fit of pique or 2) being so incompetent that even with abundant work partners by consensus can’t bill you out at your rate. Both are rare since partners will play hot potato with you as long as they need bodies to do the work, and it’s just logistically hard to fire someone. But many people who leave get pushed out and then get helped into a new position after the decision. People just don’t like to admit it.

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If the firm helped my get a in house job, I wouldn’t be offended. Call it firing if you want but that’s not a horrible outcome.

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Never seen anyone fired. They push you out / tell you to start looking for other opportunities.

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Truly fired instead of asked to leave? I’ve seen that happen maybe 3 times at my firm in nearly 20 years. And it wasn’t about their work product. I’ve never seen someone fired for bad work.

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First 2 years were automatic when I started. Third year was if you were trying at all. During fourth and fifth they’d cut the class to a half or a third. Then half again by end of 6th. It’s like musical chairs. We’re just in odd times right now when there’s too many chairs for associates. I think getting a full year was before my time. I’ve always heard three months from a review cycle.

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Actual layoffs occurred en masse during the Great Recession. Some in public (Latham most famously, but they were far from the only one) and some in private. Not soft push outs, although those also occurred, but actual “here’s your severance, thanks and good luck”-type firings. Getting gently or not so gently asked to leave happens all the time (by which I mean every firm does this to some extent each year, not that people are getting fired left and right). Sometimes in large bunches (stealth layoffs), more often on an ad hoc basis. Both firms and attorneys have great incentives to hide the real reason behind departures, so unless you are particularly close with someone it is unlikely that you will ever know if they were pushed out.

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I was let go in 2017 because I pissed off the wrong person. Not for cause though and they even gave me a stellar recommendation so I could lateral.

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Details!

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Big law as a sector has had acute associate shortages for half a decade now due to a bull market meeting anemic post recession hiring, so it has been very hard to get fired even softly pushed out (ive basically only seem for extremely poor performers with attitude issues to boot). That's not a historically normal condition nor necessarily the next decade.

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I have had the opposite impression from this group. I’ve actually felt more secure in my job bc people are always saying they need the bodies and can’t afford to fire any of us

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This is now. The market works in cycles. Inevitably things will cool down at some point and a few heads will roll.

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I’m working pretty hard at getting myself fired and haven’t succeeded yet… /s

likefunny

@A8, this was a self-deprecating joke about being incompetent.

At my old firms, I knew of a handful of associates who were fired. One because her research was so bad partners thought she would get them sued. Another for sexual harassment and the third because she pissed off a powerful partner. Most others are told to leave and given 3-6 months to look for a job while not being required to bill. And of course all of the senior associates who didn’t make partner or counsel.

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Only seen two cases. One guy was really bad at his job — like “second year who could not fill out a subpoena correctly” bad. Other one got caught sexually harassing a female associate.

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I came here to also comment that I've only seen two cases of people being fired and they're the exact same cases as the ones you've described haha

I’ve personally known of probably 6-8 associates pushed out with varying degrees of force in the last 10ish years and a couple of equity partners. One associate got the security escort out. I’m in a branch office with less than 100 attorneys, though, so that’s a decently high rate. It all depends on how busy it is and who you piss off.

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I have seen two associate who resigned, in lieu of being fired. I can’t get into specifics but they both involved egregious conduct. Both quickly found other jobs so, if you didn’t know the details, it would look like they just voluntarily left for other opportunities. I also know several more who weren’t fired but were told that they wouldn’t be made partner and so they left. This was a longer timeline than the first two (i.e, they left months after being told). I think the second category is rarer than it used to be, especially at busy firms where you can stick associates on large cases for years on end and especially if the associates don’t care about making partner and are happy to stick around for a while. The first category is very uncommon.

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One time I sincerely said “congratulations” to a partner on his next “adventure” only to later find out discreetly he had been fired for not performing for a couple of years 🥶 but outwardly no one said anything I only found out through grapevine

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I’ve never seen an associate straight up fired. Someone who does s really bad job will be told to start looking elsewhere but won’t be let go immediately. My first seems ok with letting some associates stick around for a long time. They are told they’re not getting promoted but if they want to stay with no more raises or promotion prospects, the firm seems ok with billing then out as a senior associate. We have a handful of really really senior associates.

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Very rarely

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