Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Howrey Up And Wait

We are in a painful holding pattern.  Howrey partners have another week and a half (or so) to accept their conditional offers from Winston, if a certain quality and quantity of conditional partner offers are accepted, then perhaps Winston will extend offers to some associates, and then maybe Winston will extend some offers to staff.  And who knows where you will be working if you accept an offer.

And don't pay attention to the blogs because you should rely upon the reassuring messages of firm management.

There are a lot of really good people at Howrey who deserve better than this.  How are you all surviving, and what's the latest news in your office?


  1. Staff should familiarize themselves with packing tape and procedures for assembling boxes. If you have a tape gun already hang on to it. If not, get one. Lots of grunt work from here on. Try to be kind to one another. That is all.

  2. How are we all surviving? We are continuing to do good work for our clients while the partners work all this out. What else can we do?

  3. See 3:30 for the answer to that question, unless it was rhetorical.

  4. What else can you do?
    (1) Make sure you've gotten reimbursed for any expenses.
    (2) Look up the WARN Act, so you can make sure to get notice and/or back-pay.
    (3) Clean up your resume, and call friends and colleagues to open the door to other job opportunities.
    (4) Apply for jobs at USA.gov.
    (5) Take home any personal items.
    (6) Trade personal email addresses and phone numbers with other people, so you can keep in touch when people are separated.
    (7) Collect souvenirs. An autographed photo of you shaking hands with Bob Ruyak would be pure gold!
    (8) Reserve the firm car for an afternoon trip to Ben's Chili Bowl.
    (9) Ask Bob's secretary if she has any tix to upcoming games with the Caps, Nats, or Wizards. Maybe you can score some free tickets.
    (10) Make sure you have copies of your employment agreement, and any paystubs or comp memos, so you can use them to support any claims for back pay (which hopefully will be unnecessary).
    (11) Attend any and all firm lunches, so you can collect free sodas.
    (12) If you're a partner, have you spent all of your office allowance? If not, use up any remainder on autographed posters of '70s TV stars. How great would it be to have a poster signed by the entire cast of the Love Boat?
    (13) Talk to Walt and other people about buying furniture and old tech equipment from the firm at fire-sale prices.

    There may be others, but this is a good start.

  5. This is really annoying. Obviously lots of speculation from people who don't know anything about what's going on. I was at the staff meeting today and while there wasn't any new concrete information, I can say with a certain degree of confidence that I think a lot of this doom & gloom is nothing more than opportunistic and salacious rumor-mongering. Bottom line is, both Winston and Howrey are private firms who don't need to (and in some ways, can't) comment in response to every blog or supposed "news" release that makes its way to the Internet. But in the case of Howrey, you're talking about over 1300 people with families, bills to pay, and the same fear and anxiety as anyone else faced with this kind of situation. But the only thing happening here seems to be an attempt to fan the flames of uncertainty in the hopes that you can sit back, put your feet up and roast marshmallows in the conflagration (read: enjoy the misfortune of others). I for one hope that all the Howrey folks, both current and alumni (or anyone else for that matter), enjoy calm seas and gainful employment wherever they end up.

  6. 9:47--I really don't know why you (and others who have expressed similar sentiments) seem to think that if blogs/rumors/talk about the Howrey situation go away, then the objective reality of the situation will go away. Newsflash: It won't. By all means, hope for the best, but if you don't prepare for the worst, you are a fool.

  7. @9:47 -- When the firms refuse to provide any meaningful information to their employees about what their futures hold, let's hope that a blog like this will compensate for the idiotic white noise we are hearing from management. Each day that goes by, Howrey's management fans the flames of its own slow burn.

    Good luck to everyone on landing somewhere else quickly.

  8. @9:47--I can't speak to anyone else's motives, but I can tell you that these are mine right now: to encourage you to take steps to protect yourself.

    I hope that everyone is gainfully employed in the vocation of their choice, whether by Winston or by Howrey or by anyone else. But I have genuine contempt for what I perceive as management's attempts to discourage people from taking the necessary steps to make sure that they can pay their bills. The empirical evidence is bad. Frankly, if I were in your position, I would have much more confidence if they admitted that to me, as opposed to trying to tell me that everything was roses.

    While I can't speak for anyone else posting here, I do think it would be fantastic if everyone landed safely at Winston. I just don't think it can be planned on.

  9. 9:47 here. I agree that it's prudent to update the resume and "hope for the best but plan for the worst." Yes I have put my resume on monster.com and talked to a few recruiters. But while I appreciate the sentiments of well-wishers and current or former employees hoping things work out, it seems all too often people are hoping things don't work out and the whole thing goes down in flames. I guess any time you have a public forum on the Internet you're bound to get disgruntled folk or anarchists who don't really care but want to see something burn. I just felt like I wanted to say something.

    Folks in IT have other options. Some other staff positions I think it may be harder to find another job. I don't know anything first-hand about legal work but I imagine it can be hard for just about anyone to find a position in this economy. Bottom line, it sucks to have to start over. Job search, unemployment line, bills stacking up. Then hopefully soon a new job, but that means new people, different commute, worry about benefits, salary, time off, etc. But you're at the bottom of the totem pole. Again.

    Anyway it just seems downright mean to wish ill will against other people. And being one of those people with a family on my health insurance, a mortgage to pay, a kid about to go to college, etc. It just rubs me the wrong way.

  10. Anyone who continues to drink the Kool Aid deserves exactly what's coming to them. What came first? The chicken or the egg? Winston has been in contact about a merger for years? Hmmmmmm, maybe they caught wind of the laughable PPP's and thought to seize an opportunity to scoop up the remaining actual talent (dollars)? Ohhh no, that couldn't be the case, because according to every quarterly update, Howrey is weathering the storm, while every other firm is struggling, laying people off, etc. Perhaps if there wasn't redundant management, partners (formally) making 7 figures while bringing no worth to the business and countless secretaries spending their days on Ebay and Youtube, you wouldn't be in this situation. Just a little food for thought.

  11. @10:23: I don't see anyone here wishing the rank-and-file at Howrey any ill will. Indeed, I see nothing but positive wishes and wise advice for them.

    The bitterness you see is all from people who are current or former Howrey employees who have been burned and lied to by Ruyak and other X-Comm members too many times.

  12. If only there was a scenario where W & S would take the junior partners, associates and staff and leave the big bad Howrey fat cats (at least what remains of them) behind.

  13. A captain of a ship and his/her officers will be the LAST people off the ship. Women, children, junior crew members get the life boats first.

    At Howrey, Ruyak and cronies are providing for themselves first. It's not a package deal for junior partners, associates and staff. Some associates and staff may make the move, but some will not. Even people who go to Winston should know that at 6 months or 12 months a massive layoff will be coming.

    Staff and associates should be running at full speed to find other work because the partnership has already decided to take care of themselves first.

  14. @10:24 ... and you know all of this because you are management yourself? Or are you simply speculating about what you THINK is going to happen?

  15. Not 10:24 here, but not sure what part of 10:24 isn't obvious. The partners that have Winston offers will make their decisions. Based on that, some associates will receive offers, some will not. Some staff will receive offers, some will not. Some folks are conflicted out of the "combination." (Got milk?)

  16. i don't think anyone's wishing ill...at least i'm not. howrey was/is like a family to me and i have many friends on many levels who worked there and some who remain. howrey also made me very good $ for many, many years. what's sad is that it doesn't seem like management's being entirely candid w/associates and staff. what's sad is that management is downplaying the real # of esqs who have left...it's WELL beyond 70 partners. what's sad is that management is leaving esqs' names up on the howrey site so it looks like a "booming" firm when clearly it's not. what's sad is that some staff are only finding out esqs are leaving when they see the moving guys in the middle of the night/read the Daily Journal. Many howrey offices (I've worked in several) are ghost towns yet howrey's acting like "it's all ok- this is part of our grand restructuring." What's sad is had howrey laid off some of these people months ago, they'd likely have gotten a better severance package than the 1 (if any) they'll get.

    I wish everyone well. It's a very tough job market out there and I know many people who have been out of work for 1-2 years.

    My advice: Find a way to be the master of your own income. Have more than 1 skill you can do. Always have a savings account b/c even the "Great firms" can go under.

  17. @10:32 - Speaking of drinking the Cool Aid, here's a summary of the All Staff Call. If anyone believes any of it, please take another sip.

    don't believe anything you read in the press
    "one of the things we're looking at" is to "combine the firms"

    we are hoping to do it in a way that will benefit everyone

    hope to give offers to all current employees.
    Don’t worry about pensions and 401ks they're safe

    DC and Houston will be business as usual
    Still have some hold ups... working to resolve conflicts

    what we're about is people

    we wouldn't be doing this if it didn't provide opportunities for all the people
    not just partners

    everyone relax.. deep breath
    we're doing fine.

    conflicts will be resolved in the next day or two

    want to maintain a strong Howrey Brand... so keep working and provide great service to our clients

  18. While you generally should not trust anything that a company in trouble says, or much of what Howrey management says even in good times (me being an ex Howrey attorney), the part about the 401(k)s being safe is probably true. I have my own law firm now and I know that twice a month the 401(k) money (the employees' contributions + the firm's matching contributions) goes out of the firm's bank account, and into the custodian's account and out of my control. At that point, my employees can get to their accounts but I can't.

  19. Anyone know whether the long-time history between ex-Thelenite Chuck Birenbaum (who's now on the exec committee at Winston) and his friend Steve O'Neal (ex-Thelenite and Thelen chair who went to Howrey) might have been instrumental in Winston's decision to acquire Howrey?


  20. As someone who worked at Heller when it imploded, the similarities between the firms are frightening. I heard from a recently departed partner that the revenue last month was so incredibly low that there is NO conceivable way that payroll, leases, draws etc. can be met. Additionally, at Heller, like Howrey, people were in denial about how desparate the firms situation was.... and they were absolutely screwed when Heller failed. I hope that the Howrey folks learned from Heller's mistakes and are taking care of themselves. Ryuak and the other bigwigs are NOT going to take care of anyone but themselves.