Monday, March 8, 2010

Where in the World are the Deferred Associates?

So, there are some people that go to law school and end up on top. You know who they are... in this economy, they are top 25% of students who graduated from the T14 schools.  And what is the prize for these students?  They are rewarded with a delayed start date and some money to tide them over.  It's a pretty sweet deal actually.  Some were given $60K and health insurance.  Some were given nothing. Most were prohibited from working for another law firm in the meantime, some were given guidelines that they have to stick to in order to keep their jobs--should they ever materialize.

The last I heard anything about these associates-to-be was in the summer before their original start date,  September 2009.  But what have these little buggers been doing with themselves?    I ran into this article which gave us a little insight into their lives.  I must say, I'm a bit jealous.

Here are the portions of the article that interested me:
  • Mintz Levin Cohn Ferris Glovsky & Popeo, for instance, told graduates due to join the firm in January 2010 that they would not be starting until January 2012 at the earliest. Some worried associates contacted the legal blog Above The Law, with one writing: “We are all pretty freaked out.’’ The company declined to comment other than to confirm the new starting date.
  • Faced with a surplus of new attorneys, many firms have created programs to give those who have had their start dates delayed experience in the nonprofit and public sectors. The new attorneys often don’t have a choice of whether their start dates will be deferred, but some firms stipulate that they will only get paid during the year if they participate in the programs.
  • Eighty-six of the firm’s new hires opted to take part in Goodwin Procter’s “Make a Difference’’ program, which was set up to enable the young attorneys to spend a year working for charities, civil rights groups, and legal aid organizations. 
  • Last year, Ropes & Gray, launched a similar program called the New Alternatives Program, offering its young attorneys the opportunity to take a $60,000 lump-sum check plus health benefits to delay their contracts by a year. Of the 82 lawyers taking part, around 20 are providing legal aid to the poor, 15 are working for advocacy groups, and 14 are engaged in government service.
So, it looks like they are doing good things.  They are getting wonderful experience although it will not be useful to them as BigLaw associates.  I'm such a skeptic.  I look at the "Make a Difference Program" and I see a large tax deduction for the firms that have associates enrolled in it.  I think the associates will get something from it as well, but not nearly as much as they think.   Their experience in helping tenants who are facing eviction (known as shitlaw when its performed by solos) is not going to do help their career--it's more like chicken soup for the soul.

Am I the only person wondering if they will ever get to work in BigLaw at all?


  1. $60k to do public interest work is a great deal for the time being. But you do make a good point that it means very little in the corporate world except to give the firms good pr and tax benefits. I wouldn't be surprised if the firm lets go some of these deferred associates if the economy takes another dip in the next year or two. I also would expect that some of them would be let go if there is another round of layoffs. Why keep the deferred associates around when there is always fresh meat to hire each year? I don't expect the economy to recover for quite some time so I don't think those who still have their jobs are out of the woods just yet. Didn't you post an article a few months back about UK firms who plan another round of layoffs this year?

  2. Did I? I don't know. I know the Brits hired Indians in lieu of English Attorneys, but I'm not sure about delayed start dates in the U.K.
    It's just so sad that these Associates2B are thinking that the experience they are getting is invaluable, but they will be easily replaced by new meat. So, they will probably be let go if the economy tanks. If it doesn't, they will be let go... like the rest of us.

  3. In the final analysis, this is a PR stunt by the Biglaw firms. They get tax benefits and people will see them in a better light. The deferred will learn some skills, but not much in the way that will make them better corporate lawyers.

    Also, remember that there are 45K law grads each year. What will compel/force Biglaw firms to hold to their word - when they can pick from the newer crop of JDs?!

  4. Visit this blog:

    I believe they are both from Skadden. Traveling the world, by the looks of it.

  5. Another interesting aspect of this problem (that is hitting like a ton of bricks at the TT school where I work, which historically places a plurality of its grads in gov't or public interest) is that the Biglaw deferral stipends are causing mass unemployment among new grads who actually intended to pursue public interest work as their career, rather than as "something to do" while they waited for their seats at Biglaw. I wonder what is going to happen to those folks? I think we are looking at a lost generation in every sector of what's left of the legal economy.



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