Arent Fox Chairman Marc Fleischaker has confirmed reports that the firm has rescinded offers made to some of its deferred associates. The associates who had their offers withdrawn were told Thursday morning.
In all, Fleischaker said, about 12 incoming associates were affected. Washington, which has the firm's largest office, had "about eight," New York had "between two and three," and Los Angeles had one, Fleischaker said. The news was first reported on Above the Law.
In a phone interview with The National Law Journal, Fleischaker said that while the firm did not want to take the step of telling deferred associates that they needed to look for work elsewhere, he said that it was the right thing to do.
"We're probably going to be pilloried for it, but we felt strongly that it was not fair to keep people in limbo when the likelihood was low that they were going to get the call. These people probably put their lives on hold waiting to hear from us, and they should have the chance to be looking for work elsewhere."
Fleischaker said the decision was made with input from practice leaders from across the country and human resources staff members before it was brought to the firm's executive committee. "It went to the top of the firm. This was not a quickly implemented or rash decision," Fleischaker said. "It may not be perfect, but we all agreed that it was right." He added that if the situation changes at the firm, those who had their offers withdrawn will be "the first ones called" to fill any vacancies.
Fleischaker said the firm was pushed to make the decision to cut some associates loose because the incoming class was larger than in past years. "The class was about twice the size of past classes. We gave more offers and had a higher acceptance rate than in the past," he said. The firm typically hires around 12 associates each year.
Fleischaker said the firm also wanted to avoid a "logjam" when this year's class of summer associates are ready to be hired. "There are a lot of great people in that class, and they should be in the running too. We're really trying to limit the number of people who are affected," he said. Fleischaker said so far, the summer associates have received their evaluations but no offers have been made yet.
To "soften the blow," the firm is giving those who have their offers rescinded a $20,000 stipend. "There is no legal obligation to do that, but we felt it was a moral obligation," he said. "These people should be able to get on with their lives, even if it's going to be someplace else."
This article first appeared on The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times.