Not Satisfied With ‘Unpaid Leave,’ Am Law 100 Firm Slashes Salaries For All

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Biglaw firms continue to roll out austerity measures in attempts to stave off the financial pains the COVID-19 crisis may bring in the future. Some firms now find themselves taking more cost-cutting measures than they initially hoped would be necessary to shore up the cash needed to weather this storm. One of those firms is Ogletree Deakins.

The Am Law 100 firm previously canceled its summer associate program without guaranteeing future employment for law students. The firm also approved special COVID-19 pay for some staff, and when those monies ran out, placed them on unpaid leave (with paid benefits through May 31). At the time, we mused that this “unpaid leave” sounded like a polite way of saying those employees had been furloughed. Now sources report to Above the Law that there are pay cuts for all remaining employees.

Specifically, Ogletree will be reducing pay for equity partners (by 20 percent), associates (by 15 percent), and highly compensated staff (by 10 percent) for the remainder of 2020. A memo detailing the firm’s plans can be found on the next page.

We reached out to Ogletree for comment on these salary cuts, and received this statement from a spokesperson (with an update on the unpaid leave health benefits):

In order to preserve jobs and maintain the stability of the firm for the long run, our firm announced on Monday, April 20, 2020, that it has made the difficult decision to implement pay reductions for attorneys and highly compensated staff through the end of the year. The firm will not reduce compensation for staff who earn less than $100,000 per year. For staff who earn $100,000 per year or more, the firm will reduce compensation by 10 percent. We will reduce attorney salaries by 15 percent, and we expect equity shareholders to receive a 20 percent reduction in compensation.

In addition, as we shared last week, a number of employees have exhausted their firm-provided COVID-19 pay and have recently begun or will begin a period of temporary unpaid leave. For these employees, the firm has extended the period it will pay the full health, vision, dental, short-term disability, and life insurance premiums for an additional month, through June 30, 2020. We plan to reinstate staff once the economy recovers.

Hopefully this will be enough to “preserve jobs” at Ogletree amid a pandemic.

(Flip to the next page to see the full memo from Ogletree.)

If your firm or organization is slashing salaries, closing its doors, or reducing the ranks of its lawyers or staff, whether through open layoffs, stealth layoffs, or voluntary buyouts, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Our vast network of tipsters is part of what makes Above the Law thrive. You can email us or text us (646-820-8477).

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Staci ZaretskyStaci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.

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