When good billing promises go bad

Firms falling for big-billing promises at the interview stage could suffer like Dewey


Lawyers looking for jobs know it is best to puff their chests out and talk loudly about what they can achieve financially. Pre-2008 it might have been easier to keep those big-billing promises to prospective employers, but the world crash is taking its toll.

The problem is that truth-bending and figure-inflating might seem clever at the interview stage, but little white lies can turn into big fat problems.

Here’s one stinker. Sources tell of a high-profile partner who promised their prospective home they would bill £10m, landing a cushy contract. Fast-forward a year or two and that figure, so we’re told, has plateaued at a measly £100,000.

It is a recurring theme and one that, if ignored, could have serious implications.

Last week saw the one-year anniversary of Dewey & LeBoeuf’s demise. It built an empire on sand by offering big-buck guarantees to top partners. But the work simply was not available and when the money stopped flowing in the firm was left high and dry.

“Anyone with half a brain could see that was going to cause problems,” said one source. “[Guarantee partners] were insulated. It was toxic.”

Another insider claims 80 per cent of profit was being handed to 10 per cent of partners. 

Of course, there’s nothing sinful in a little chest-puffing, especially when hunting for a new job or an experienced employee.

The danger in the end is if the puffy chests are trying to mask big problems.