Blogging Forces Change in Law Firm Layoff Policies
Companies are fast learning that in an Internet Age, there's no such thing as a "confidential" memo. As the Wall Street Journal explains today (and as has previously been discussed here by The National Law Journal), employees are leaking confidential company information about layoffs to blogs and Internet news sites nearly as quickly as those memos are issued. And it's not just businesses that are impacted. Increasingly, law firms are finding that the "thick gray (suited) wall of silence" that once protected internal communications and law firm decisions has been penetrated by the power of the Internet.
Call it the ATL (Above the Law) effect. Indeed, the WSJ recognizes that ATL has become the number one repository of law firm leaks. From the article:
In June, leaders of Portland, Ore.-based law firm Schwabe, Williamson & Wyatt told only three or four people internally about plans to lay off 19 of its 400 employees and cut the salaries of associates. Still, at 9:11 a.m. on June 15, just 41 minutes after the first employees were notified of the layoffs, the law firm received an email from AboveTheLaw.com, a legal Web site.
"We had gone to extraordinary lengths to contain this because the people involved have been here for a very long time," says Mark Long, managing partner. He says the firm is reevaluating how it manages communications in an era of blogs and social media.
A week earlier, AboveTheLaw disclosed salary cuts at law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP before some associates had been told by managers, a spokeswoman confirms. The spokeswoman says the firm doesn't know who gave the information to the blog.
So what can law firms do to cure data breaches? One firm, Neal, Gerber & Eisenberg in Chicago, avoided a company-wide memo on layoffs back in February, opting instead to break the news to individuals personally. Jerry Biederman, managing partner of the firm, says that "If you send an electronic communication to more than a small group of people there is a substantial possibility it will turn up on a site."
The article notes that some companies are trying to crack down on those who leak information -- but in the case of layoffs, that idea seems futile. After all, what's a company going to do, fire an employee who's just been laid off?
Posted by Carolyn Elefant on July 20, 2009 at 03:27 PM | Permalink
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