Thanks to Kash over at Above the Law for picking up the Edit War story.
Right now it looks like information about the layoffs will make the cut, but that would be only a small victory. I want to get in the drop in Vault rankings, rumors about stealth layoffs, and the fact that “Latham” is now synonymous with layoffs, as in “I got Lathamed despite having only good performance reviews.”
Feel free to weigh in on the discussions, but remember to keep things civil and respect the Wikipedia rules.
Since this is the first real fight over law firm Wiki content, it’s important we get in as much information as possible and set a good precedent for updates to other law firm pages.
The newly added edits to Latham’s Wikipedia page have been Lathamed.
More to follow…
“The article is protected for the next 3 days.”
Feel free to join in the discussion so that we can build a consensus that yes, the biggest layoffs in the history of a major industry are in fact significant and belong on the Latham Wikipedia article.
Remember, avoid vandalism, and keep things civil.
Law firm edit war is moving up to the next level.
With Latham’s Wikipedia page now unlocked, information regarding mass layoffs, plummeting vault rankings, and the coining of the term “Lathamed” have been restored.
And now that we have started our first major engagement, it’s time to roll out the Edit War Strategic Informational Defense Command.
More news from the front lines. It appears that our first all out battle of edits has commenced over at the Wikipedia article for Latham & Watkins.
All information regarding Latham’s notorious layoffs have been removed, and following a brief revising skirmish, the page has been placed under temporary protection.
That protection expires today, and you can bet by tomorrow the fighting will have started back again.
Cadwalader, fun to say, more fun to edit.
On April 19th, a user under the name “Disney44″ made several edits to Cadwalader’s Wikipedia entry, removing any information regarding layoffs. Easily enough undone.
Sorry Cadwalader, but if you’re going to lay off 130+ attorneys, including first years, and then post a 28% increase in profits per partner, you gotta own up to it.
This makes Cadwalader the second (after Fish & Richardson) firm to undo the edit war updates.
As reported on AboveTheLaw.com today, Willkie Farr has deferred it’s class from fall 2010 to January 2011. Deferrals are pretty common these days, but what makes Willkie’s actions stand out is that they assured their newbies as recently as January or February that they would be starting on time. Now you can find this information on Wikipedia!
This really sucks for people who have already signed leases and made other moving arrangements expecting to have a paycheck coming in this Fall. Willkie is offered no stipend, but is allowing associates to take a $20,000 salary advance, to be paid back over the first year of work. $20k might sound like a lot for a big lump payment, but it has to cover associates living in New York City for 6 months. The associates are going to be stuck with security deposits, broker fees, moving expenses, probably some furniture costs (especially if moving from a furnished dorm), and the price of building a professional wardrobe.
List of Wiki Raids:
Fish & Richardson
# Its neutrality is disputed. Tagged since March 2009.
# It is written like an advertisement and needs to be rewritten from a neutral point of view.
Anyone who’s taken a professional responsibility class or the MPRE knows that there are a lot of rules regulating attorney advertising. And, if you’ve been on the internet at all in the last couple years, you’ve probably figured out that almost every major law firm has a Wikipedia entry.
Not surprising, most of the articles were created by, or heavily edited by, employees of the law firms. This isn’t typically problematic. The Wikipedia articles generally contain information about the size of the firm, the firm’s history, the location of its offices, and its main practice areas. The pages do not contain any contact information, but do link to the firm’s official website.
I would argue that at this point there are no ethical problem. Using the New York Code of Professional Responsibility (since a ton of big firms are headquartered in NY), an attorney advertisement is defined as such:
“Advertisement” means any public or private communication made by or on behalf of a lawyer or law firm about that lawyer or law firm’s services, the primary purpose of which is for the retention of the lawyer or law firm. It does not include communications to existing clients or other lawyers.
What makes the garden variety law firm Wikipedia article okay is the “primary purpose” language. A Wikipedia article’s primary purpose is to serve as an encyclopedic article and provide neutral, factual information.
Things get dicey when firms do more with their Wikipedia articles. Some firms have added awards and honors, probably not too bad, still somewhat encyclopedic. Other firms have gone so far as to delete negative information on their articles. At some point I think adding in praise and editing out criticism creates a biased article that could constitute an advertisement. But, I want to know what you think. Is any editing of your own firm’s page advertising? Is it only advertising if you create a highly biased article? Or, is it never advertising?
You might be thinking “So what? Firms can advertise. Maybe this violates neutral tone and bias rules on Wikipedia, but it’s not an ethics issue.” You would be wrong. The NY ethics rules have this requirement for advertisements:
Every advertisement other than those appearing in a radio or television advertisement or in a directory, newspaper, magazine or other periodical (and any web sites related thereto), or made in person pursuant to DR 2-103(A)(1), shall be labeled “Attorney Advertising” on the first page, or on the home page in the case of a web site. If the communication is in the form of a self-mailing brochure or postcard, the words “Attorney Advertising” shall appear therein. In the case of electronic mail, the subject line shall contain the notation “ATTORNEY ADVERTISING.”
Since no law firm Wikipedia article I’ve seen has labeled itself as attorney advertising (and would probably be removed from Wikipedia if it did), any Wikipedia article that qualifies as an advertisement violates the Code of Professional Responsibility.
As online resources like Wikipedia grow and gain credibility, and as law firm PR departments become more web-savvy, we could see a potential shit-storm of ethics violations in the next couple years.
Back on February 5th I edited the Fish & Richardson Wikipedia article, adding information about the closing of the firm’s corporate practice, layoffs of 110 staff and attorneys, increase in revenues of 4.7% and increase in profits of 20%.
On February 14th, those changes were deleted by the user Lneal, so I of course have put them back. “Lneal” is most likely an employee of Fish & Richardson. Wikipedia shows Lneal has made 26 edits, 25 of which were to the Fish page (the other was Sheppard, Mullin, Richter & Hampton).
I don’t know of any ethics opinions on point, but I have to imagine that Wikipedia articles have the potential to be an attorney advertisement, if significantly edited by the firm, and if editing in an advertisementy way. Not only does Wikipedia not allow articles to be used as advertisements (violates neutral tone rules), but since Wikipedia articles don’t carry Warning: Lawyer Advertisement! labels, they could be prohibited advertisements under professional responsibility and ethics rules.
After some research, I’ve found that there is an Elizabeth Neal who was hired as Fish and Richardson’s director of events and communications in 2008.
As Director of Events & Communications, Elisabeth Neal will be responsible for external communications including material, website, and client alerts. She also manages all firm events and regional marketing activities and works closely with the practice group and business development marketing team to coordinate firm-wide marketing initiatives as well as cross-marketing opportunities.
My guess is Lneal is “Liz” Neal. Keeping tabs on the firm’s Wikipedia page certainly seems like it would be part of her job.
Today sees three new targets in the Law Firm Wikipedia Edit War, all thanks to what should be an embarrassing article from The Boston Globe.
Bingham McCutchen laid off associates, and then posted not only increased profits per partner (which can happen when you cut expenses), but also increased revenue. How you cut staff while having an increased workload is beyond me. Sounds like their clients are getting ripped off.
But, what makes Bingham’s actions particularly bad is that the firm chairman described 2009 as the “best year ever.” Yeah, unless you were one of the people for whom it was the worst year ever. Douche.
Fish & Richardson also conducted lay offs while posting an increase in profits. Their managing partner had a little more tact and described the recession as “a painful year for everyone.” Of course, it’s not nearly as painful if you’re one of the Fish partners. They saw a staggering 20% increase to profits per partner.
And last, but certainly not least, Wilmer Hale…oh Wilmer Hale, you sick sons of bitches. Wilmer Hale only posted a 7% increase in profits per partner, but the reason they’re going up on the ol’ wall of shame is lying to the press about layoffs. In June 2009, AbovetheLaw.com reported stealth layoffs at Wilmer Hale. Wilmer Hale denied that any layoffs had taken place, and even said none were planned or expected. Then in July, just one month later, announced that layoffs had occurred. And, then again in October. What the Hale?
List of Wiki Raids:
Fish & Richardson