Wednesday, April 22, 2009

None of our peer firms are admitting this -- and we're not admitting it publicly either -- but we're absolutely rescinding some of our full-time offers to last year's summer associates. That's been the one thing people think none of the top firms are doing yet. Sure, we're delaying start dates, and laying off associates, and paying people to leave the firm for a year... but rescinding offers is that last flood wall that's keeping back the crush of bad press and point-of-no-return recruiting issues and really hamstringing our future attempts to reload once the economy turns around. People think it's not happening, but, secretly, it is. We're just desperate for word not to get out. So we're paying people off and making them sign airtight non-disclosure agreements.

(Sidenote: You want to keep associates without any work occupied for a couple of weeks, and scared out of their skulls? Have them write non-disclosure agreements people would have to sign to get their severance, and make them include all sorts of terrible, evil clauses, like about how they're giving up their right to sue for wrongful death in case someone from the firm follows them home the day they get fired and kills them... and then fire all the associates who worked on the documents. They won't sleep for a week.)

Through some independent testing, we've discovered that $12,000 is the right amount to keep those with rescinded offers from talking. Less than that, and we're worried they'll leak it. More than that, and we're just throwing money away. There are no jobs in this economy. They need the $12K to tide them over for a couple weeks. No one wants to risk having to miss a payment on the BMW they foolishly leased back when they thought they had a $160K/year job.

One of the people whose offer we rescinded was Number Two. I don't even remember his real name. No one does. This is one of the few nicknames that wasn't just in my head, but throughout pretty much the entire firm. I was in another summer's office last year, yelling at him for stapling a set of documents at the wrong angle (I like my staples vertical), when I noticed he had been Google-chatting with one of his colleagues down the hall. I heard the computer beep, and looked over to see the message. "Gotta sign off for a bit. I have to go #2." To his credit, the guy whose office I was in quickly clicked the window closed, hoping he could cover for his friend and I wouldn't see. (Have to admit, that showed me a lot about that guy -- didn't have the killer instinct, automatically wanted to protect his friend without considering any potential benefit to his own career... we didn't give him an offer at the end of the summer.)

But I did see, and almost forgot about the staple for a moment and started to laugh. Of course I didn't actually laugh. But I felt the urge for a split second. And then, once I was sufficiently convinced this guy would never staple incorrectly again, I stopped off at The Tax Guy's office and told him the #2 story. And soon enough, it spread throughout the firm. Killed the guy's reputation, was terribly embarrassing for him the rest of the summer. But he took the full-time offer anyway, since what else could he do... and last week, we rescinded it. Didn't even offer him the full $12,000. Offered him $8,000 and the promise that if another firm ever comes calling for a reference, we won't mention the incident. As soon as he heard that, he signed immediately. Good luck to him. In the job search, and in the bathroom.

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