The firm chased commercial mortgaged-back securities work when the practice was hot, adding a fleet of young lawyers to its structured-finance and real-estate practices to meet demand. Now, with that spigot turned off, one could argue that the firm is simply behaving rationally, cutting its unnecessary overhead. "There was a bubble, we rode that bubble, it contracted, and we adjusted," says W. Christopher White, the firm's chairman. "Even knowing what I know now, I wouldn't have changed a thing."I admire White for his brutal honesty and cojones. Young lawyers better realize that this is not the profession I entered into fifteen years ago, for better or worse. (Worse, in my opinion.) Will the firm go away? Beats me. Some say it is a matter of time but I disagree. I thought CWT had some major layoffs like this some years ago that they said it would not recover from, and yet it did. Maybe my recollection is poor.
I'm not sure this is really a profession any more, at least at some levels. And I'm sad about that. But I also understand the desire to make money and that it often trumps benevolence or other qualities that make old-line partnerships seem almost quaint.