Simpson Thacher gets tough on associates

Simpson Thacher gets tough on associatesA year into the credit crunch, Simpson Thacher & Bartlett has become the ­latest US firm to review associate levels following the slowdown in M&A work.

The firm has taken the unusual step of introducing a mid-year performance review for its associates. It is understood that the benchmark for associates to reach in order to keep their jobs is significantly higher than in previous appraisals.

Market sources have ­suggested that up to 30 associates have been asked to consider their positions as a result of the review.

Simpson Thacher chairman Pete Ruegger denied the firm was making credit crunch-related layoffs. However, another Simpson Thacher source said: “What we’re doing is being harder in our performance review process. People who are viewed as not performing have been given the opportunity to find another job.”

The insider added that, while Simpson Thacher’s core practices were “still active”, its 2008 revenue is expected to be noticeably down on 2007’s.

“There’s a definite slowdown,” the insider said. “We will not make layoffs. We feel we’d rather take the hit ­during a downturn than get rid of people because there isn’t enough work to do.”