This item in the New York Times will turn a lot of us green with envy. My jaw dropped with when I read it.
The global economic downturn doesn’t seem like such a bad thing after all, if you’re an associate at Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher and Flom, the largest U.S. law firm in terms of revenue. Due to the recession, which would predictably cut into its projected revenues, Skadden has offered its 1,300 associates worldwide 80,000 U.S. dollars each to take the year off. They’re encouraged to find pro-bono work and render meaningful service to any cause of their choice although “the lawyers could also spend the year catching up on every episode of “Top Chef” that they missed during the boom years, or traveling around the world“.
To sweeten the deal further, any associate on sabbatical will be spared from downsizing and will have their jobs waiting when they return. If every associate would take the partners up on their offer, it would cost the firm U.S.$ 104,000,000, not exactly chump change but still a mere 2% of its annual earnings. It seems lawyering, at least at the level of Skadden, is recession-proof. The Skadden Insider, a blog purporting to be run by two of the firm’s associates, crowed a few months back that “the firm’s business is strong and that billable hours are essentially the same compared to the same period last year”.
But since, according to its Wiki page, Skadden “has played a significant role in U.S. and international business”, one wonders how much it has contributed to the present financial debacle. Given the scope of the firm’s practice, it’s inconceivable that it was not involved in a major way in the U.S. mortgage bonds meltdown that resulted in the global financial crisis. But being good lawyers, the members of the firm would surely have insulated themselves from the fallout.