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You can check out any time you like, but your capital can never leave. That’s the refrain partners leaving Chicago-based Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal are humming to themselves these days. After a rash of partners left the firm recently, the firm informed them that it would be holding their capital interest-free, for 13 months. After that, they report, an assessment will be made as to whether they have behaved — i.e., helped with client cooperation and collection, etc. Those who are good will get the capital back in a lump sum immediately. Those who are bad will get it in installments over a 36-month period. Is this a new strategy for attorney retention? Managing partner Duane Quaini denies that. He says that the firm will make the decision within the 13-month period, as the partnership contract permits, and he asserts that the policy isn’t a new one. Departing partners say that it is unprecedented and reflects the poor management which is driving attorneys away. One reports that last after the CFO announced that the firm would be coming in 30 percent under budget, pizza perks, holiday parties and partner retreats were to be scaled back. Although the firm came in only slightly under budget after all, the former partner blamed a general slip in the firm’s competitiveness on too much deadwood.

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