Sullivan: let us entertain you – in a thrifty manner

Sullivan & Cromwell was deservedly lauded in this year’s Transatlantic Elite for its string of roles at the heart of the global financial crisis.

Frankly, there are few firms in the market that could come up with such a succession of innovative solutions to some of the most complex problems ever faced.

So, when the world’s ­richest full-service firm was faced with the equally ­knotty problem of what to do with all those pesky ­summer associates messing up its offices in June, July and August, the firm’s big brains were quick to come up with the answer.

“A visit to a local museum or gallery, a scenic ride on the Staten Island Ferry, or a baseball game are all good ways to get to know someone,” an internal Sullivan memo advised, adding helpfully that “these are all acceptable forms of entertainment”.

Even better, they’re all – bar the Yankees tickets – free. Genius.

The memo popped up last week on US legal market blog Abovethelaw.com, which also carried tipsters claiming that the firm had made more than 20 stealth layoffs among its associate base.

Indeed, one source said: “I’ve heard from a senior associate (who was told by a friendly partner) that the plan is to lay off 10 per cent of associates, in New York that would be about 45-50.”

The Lawyer contacted Sullivan for a comment both on the rumours of stealth layoffs and on its summer associate entertainment plans. The firm declined to comment.

But the summer associate memo, which included budgetary limits for lunch and dinner of $60 (£40) and $80 respectively, offers all the evidence needed to confirm the scale of the ­cutbacks at the elite New York firm.

Incidentally, last year ­Sullivan posted average profits of $3m.