White & Case cull silence is sapping partner morale

Mystery surrounds the White & Case partnership cull. Earlier this year the US firm announced it would be shedding 15-20 per cent of its global partnership, as well as 200 associates and 200 from its support staff workforce (TheLawyer.com, 10 March).

But so far numbers have not been revealed, even internally, while the fine details of the process have been kept under wraps.

The Lawyer, however, has learnt that roughly eight partners have been given the chop in the White & Case London partnership. Still, details remain sketchy.

“Discussing it with each other is forbidden,” claims one inside source. “It’s a sackable offence. As a result no one really knows who exactly has been affected.”

The Lawyer contacted White & Case for a comment, but it declined the opportunity. It did, however, offer the following: “In order to protect the identities and privacy of the affected partners, the firm’s management has not, and will not, provide further details around any related actions nor distribute any list of names, numbers or percentages of those impacted, either internally or externally.”

What is known is that each and every year the partnership receives what is known as ‘the grid’ at the end of its firmwide compensation review. Each partner, along with the points they have been awarded, is documented on the grid.

But times have changed. Post-partner cull the grid has not been sent to the wider partnership.

“Obviously this would show who is not at the firm anymore,” says a London-based White & Case partner. “Management is desperate to keep this level of detail secret.”

Chairman Hugh Verrier and his team may be determined to hide the facts, but details of the review and cuts are emerging.

It is understood that the London cuts are mainly from the transactional teams and partners have until 31 December to leave the firm.

Elsewhere the firm has halved its partner presence in Johannesburg from six to three. Given that White & Case has outlined plans to beef up its capabilities in Africa, this move seems unusual.

Naming and shaming cut partners is unnecessary, but surely those still at White & Case deserve a bit more clarity on such a crucial restructuring of the entire firm?