Associates at Weil Gotshal’s offices around the world are fuming at ham-fisted bid by the senior partnership to take the piss out of work-life balance issues
Law firms talk a lot of rubbish about “work-life balance”. They make all the right noises about caring for the mental and physical health of their lawyers and staff — and then bollock young associates if they are a nanosecond off their annual billing target of three million hours.
But for a moment yesterday, it looked as though one global firm had gone straight to the head of the class in putting health above profit — but in reality all it has managed to do is intensely irritate its worker-bee lawyers with a misguided and naff April Fools’ joke.
New York-based Weil Gotshal issued a global all-staff notice yesterday — including to solicitors in its London office — saying that the firm’s Grand Poobahs had decided to ease up on the unwritten rule that lawyers had to keep one eye glued to their email inbox 24 hours a day.
“Effective May 1, 2015,” wrote Lisa Cuevas (pictured below), who travels under the bizarre job title of “chief talent officer” at Weil, “the following rules will be in effect, implemented by software in each office.”
Cuevas then went on to list a string of new email protocols, the gist of which was that no correspondence would be sent to lawyers between 11 o’clock in the evening and 6 o’clock in the morning.
Not a huge concession — but at least something. Indeed, the talent guvnor herself acknowledged that the decision, while motivated by similar moves such as that of German motorcar manufacturer Dailmer, did not go as far as the slack being cut by bosses at some European companies.
Nonetheless, in the dog-eat-dog world of international transactional legal business — where every minute counts and some law firms have issued check-your-email-often (ie, always) edicts — it seemed like at least a welcome sop.
Except it was a cruel joke — and one that has, according to our good friends across the pond, Above the Law, backfired rather badly on Cuevas and the Weil senior partnership.
Messages from associates to the website included these notes of harsh criticism and outright anger:
“Please get ahold of Weil’s April fools email. It’s awful and associates are pissed.”
“If this is true, it’s awesome. If it’s a joke, it’s the worst joke of all time. Especially to someone like me who has been billing 12-16 hour days recently and gets a lot of late night and weekend emails.”
“This is a f*cked-up joke.”
“April Fools! We don’t really give a shit about you! Now get back to billing.”
Those comments seem to have struck a chord. Yesterday afternoon, Barry Wolf, the firm’s executive partner (now there’s a job title that at least makes some degree of sense) sent a firm-wide email that was grovellingly apologetic in tone.
Note to senior partners, Wolf and law firm top talent spotters: next year, leave the April Fools’ nonsense to the media.