Herbies asks associates to stay as more jump ship

Herbert Smith litigation associates are continuing to resign from the firm despite the moves put in place by department head Sonya Leydecker to boost the team’s morale.

On 10 October, The Lawyer revealed that 25 litigation associates had quit the firm during the past year. Since then, it has emerged that at least five more have also handed in their resignations.

Of the five, two are five-year qualified solicitors jumping ship for US rivals. Andrew Westlake is due to move to Mayer Brown Rowe & Maw, while Derval Walsh will join White & Case in January 2006. Herbert Smith said Walsh had resigned within the past three weeks, while Westlake had resigned earlier.

The Lawyer has learned that two more associates have handed in their resignations, but are being asked to spend two months on unpaid leave while they consider remaining with Herbert Smith.

The firm has persuaded a fifth associate to stay, but the firm denied that any salary increases were involved. The firm declined to comment on the other individuals, saying it would not discuss private arrangements.

Former associates have told The Lawyer that the department suffers from a lack of morale, poor communication and uncertainty about career progression.

Leydecker has instituted a variety of measures to tackle the problem. These include the introduction of eight ‘people partners’, who act as mentors to discuss problems individuals may have.

New career development programmes are also being instituted and Leydecker is meeting all litigation associates in small groups to identify their issues.

The departures mean more than 20 per cent of litigation associates have left the firm in 12 months. Herbert Smith’s overall assistant attrition rate is 14.8 per cent.