Posts Tagged 'lifelines'

Your Thoughts, Prayers and Support Are Needed

I wanted to update Heller Highwater readers on some recent news involving a former Heller Ehrman San Francisco staff member:

Schelle Simcox was a reference librarian at Heller’s San Francisco office a little over five years ago. Schelle left to become the SF librarian at Paul Hastings and she  gave birth to a son Lukas in 2008.

Schelle has been diagnosed with stomach cancer, and is going through her first round of chemo.

You can send messages of support and follow her treatment at (This is a free site for posting treatment or other news to friends and loved ones.)

Schelle says that the caring of so many people is giving her wonderful support so let’s keep it up!

Will We Get Paid This Friday?

Folks, the main intent of your Cruise Director is to convey information without causing panic. But because he and several other Hellerites are also ex-Brobeckians (please, do not call us “law firm angels of death” – that’s an old one!), we know from what we know:

There is a scheduled pay day for Friday, September 25, 2008. If you have direct deposit, please check first thing on Friday to make sure the money is there. And if you still receive an actual check, please cash it immediately. I’m not kidding. Does anyone remember that Friday at Brobeck in San Francisco when so many of us went down to the bank to cash our checks that the bank ran out of cash?

The reason I bring this up: there is a hastily called shareholder meeting today at 4:30 pm PDT. The topic: to discuss information received from the bank.

What does this mean? It could mean several things such as bankruptcy which is the worse case or it could mean that the bank is forcing a dissolution of the firm based on current cash on hand, credit and projected finances.

Please don’t panic. I know that is hard to say but we as support staff, the people who have also made sure that every i is dotted, every t is crossed, every pleading is signed and the first line starts on Line 8 or Line 13 depending upon the venue – we are the ones who always make sure our attorneys remain calm. We need to do the same for each other. We’ll get through this and we don’t want anyone to get hurt right now.

Information is crucial right now. If you have it, spill it in the comments.

Heller Drone
Cruise Director

Some Updates

Some pretty well confirmed information which has been relayed among many Hellerites tonite:

  • the next shareholder meeting of any type is this Sunday, September 21 and not on Tuesday;
  • a possible configuration of the San Francisco, New York and London offices remaining as Heller Ehrman and the rest of the offices (Anchorage, Seattle, Silicon Valley, Los Angeles, San Diego, Madison, Washington, DC, Beijing, Hong Kong and Singapore) left to do their own thing – whatever that means.
One office has already scheduled a 10:00 am office-wide meeting on Monday, September 22 to make some sort of announcement.
Stay tuned of course.

Comments from an Esteemed Brobeckian

I always hate hearing the word “esteemed,” since many times it is code for “older and wiser” but the adjective really does fit Jayne Loughry.  I did not know Jayne very well while I was at Brobeck and since I made a rather early exit, I did not have direct benefit from all her efforts and hard work as shown on her website Brobeckinfo.  But she seriously rocks in my opinion.  Major rocks.  Boulders.

Jayne made some very incisive comments on yesterday’s End of The Day post and I would hate to see them buried and not come to light as the information is critical, very helpful, and time-sensitive.  I will be posting about some of the ideas she brings up later on today.  So read below.  And if you get a chance, please thank Jayne for, well, being Jayne.

Dear Heller Folks,

As a Brobeck survivor, I’m so very sorry to read about the troubles at your firm.

If you’ve been to the BrobeckInfo site linked elsewhere in this blog, you might recognize my name.  After Brobeck was rammed into the iceberg and destroyed, I got involved in trying to help Brobeck employees with the aftermath.  So I do have a pretty good idea of what you’re feeling right now.

Like you, and for the sake of all Heller employees, clients and vendors, I fervently hope that Heller does not dissolve.  If it does, however, I hope the Heller management and its rank & file partners act responsibly and honorably toward all their employees.

Nevertheless, I believe you’re right to prepare yourselves for the possibility of the worst happening.  Many like to think the despicable behavior of the Brobeck partners was an anomaly, that what happened at Brobeck couldn’t happen anywhere else, but I’m not so sure about that.  Each firm likes to tout its own special culture, but I believe the similarities among big law firms far outweigh the differences, and I believe it is possible that what happened at Brobeck could well happen anywhere in biglawland, including Heller.

With that in mind, I want to share some tips with you so that — if the worst does happen — things might be a bit easier for you than they were for us.  These are things that I wish we had known or done at the beginning.  The tips are sort of like earthquake preparedness kit:  good to have on hand, even though we all hope you’ll never have to use any of it.

1.  Make sure you have originals or copies of ALL documents related to your employment in a safe place  Don’t assume you’d be able to get the documentation or information you might need after the firm tanked.  What kind of documents?  Anything that confirms and/or describes your status, compensation, and benefits of any kind.  Some things will be specific to you, some will be more general.  For example, we had a devil of a time finding copies of the staff and associate bonus plans and stock investment funds.  And, if for some reason you’re not already doing it, take home your pay stubs.  If it’s not on each pay stub/advice, confirm and keep track of your current accrued vacation/PTO.  Have all the details, including contact info, about your 401K.  If you’re a contract employee or any special bonus/compensation has been promised you, keep a copy of the proof at home.  Don’t delay in submitting expense reimbursement forms, and until you’re reimbursed be sure to keep copies of the
forms and receipt(s) at home.  If a document might in any way help you prove the terms of your employment and/or what you’re owed or entitled to receive, you want it.  It’s impossible to list everything that might be needed, so when in doubt copy it and take it home (or if it’s an e-document, flip it to your personal email account).

2.  Similarly, keep copies of any memos or emails management sends you about what’s going on at/with the firm.  I don’t know how likely it is, but it is possible you will be lied to or given promises that won’t be kept.  You might need to prove that.

3.  If the worst comes, being able to communicate with each other will incredibly important.  Copy whatever employee rosters you can and start gathering contact info or building email rings now.  The more of your fellow employees you can reach, the better off you all will be.

4.  Take deep breaths and try to stay calm.  I know this is hard when uncertainty is swirling around you, but the calmer you are the better you can take care of yourself and make good decisions.  Don’t automatically believe every rosy outlook from management or partners, but also don’t automatically believe every scary rumor you hear.  Use this blog or whatever other means you have to share information and try to ferret out the truth.

5.  I’ll continue to hope the Heller partners prove me wrong, nevertheless I think you should be prepared to accept the possibility that if Heller begins to sink the partners for whom you have worked so hard and to whom you have been so loyal will act like weasels and will put their self-interest ahead of any concern for your well-being.  My point here is not to diss the Heller partners, but to warn you of the dangers of putting too much (perhaps any) trust in partners.  In all likelihood, the partners would band together and do what’s best for themselves, regardless of how much it might harm the employees.  So, if the worst does come, don’t waste time waiting for the partners to help you, to make things right, to solve your problems.  Instead, do what they do:  band together and do what’s best for you the employees.  The partners might abandon you, but you’re not alone and you’re not powerless.  You’ve got strength in your numbers.  If you make the effort to help each other, to share information, to work together, and to be kind to one another you can all get through this.  We did, and that’s how we did it.

I hope what I’ve written here is of some help to you.  Moreso, I hope Heller stabilizes and “the worst” never comes to any of you.

Best wishes to you all,  Jayne

W-4 Forms

You might want to think about adjusting your W-4 form, both state and federal, if you think you are going to be laid off or leaving the firm and not having the same income level for the rest of the year.  This could lessen any economic impact of losing your job.

Remember:  this is not to be construed as tax advice, since your individual financial situation is unique to you.  There may be underwithholding issues etc.  

I just wanted to put the forms out there and make them handy to get to. (Also: I am trying to post forms and links for all states where Heller staff might live, i.e. Connecticut for the New York office.  If you think I am missing a few states or jurisdictions, please let me know!  H.D.)

Federal – W-4

Alaska  – W-4

none – you lucky dogs!

California  – W-4

Connecticut  – W-4

District of Columbia  – W-4

Maryland – W-4

New Jersey  – W-4

New York  – W-4

Virginia – W-4

Washington  – W-4

none – note to self: pack bags for Seattle!

Wisconsin  – W-4

You’ve Been WARNed

Please keep in mind the WARN Act – the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act.  This was the subject of a lawsuit by former Brobeck staff.



The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification ActA Guide to Advance Notice of Closings and Layoffs

The Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act (WARN) was enacted on August 4, 1988 and became effective on February 4, 1989.

General Provisions

WARN offers protection to workers, their families and communities by requiring employers to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs. This notice must be provided to either affected workers or their representatives (e.g., a labor union); to the State dislocated worker unit; and to the appropriate unit of local government.

Employer Coverage

In general, employers are covered by WARN if they have 100 or more employees, not counting employees who have worked less than 6 months in the last 12 months and not counting employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week. Private, for-profit employers and private, nonprofit employers are covered, as are public and quasi-public entities which operate in a commercial context and are separately organized from the regular government. Regular Federal, State, and local government entities which provide public services are not covered.

Employee Coverage

Employees entitled to notice under WARN include hourly and salaried workers, as well as managerial and supervisory employees. Business partners are not entitled to notice.

What Triggers Notice

Plant Closing: A covered employer must give notice if an employment site (or one or more facilities or operating units within an employment site) will be shut down, and the shutdown will result in an employment loss (as defined later) for 50 or more employees during any 30-day period. This does not count employees who have worked less than 6 months in the last 12 months or employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week for that employer. These latter groups, however, are entitled to notice (discussed later).

Mass Layoff: A covered employer must give notice if there is to be a mass layoff which does not result from a plant closing, but which will result in an employment loss at the employment site during any 30-day period for 500 or more employees, or for 50-499 employees if they make up at least 33% of the employer’s active workforce. Again, this does not count employees who have worked less than 6 months in the last 12 months or employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week for that employer. These latter groups, however, are entitled to notice (discussed later).

An employer also must give notice if the number of employment losses which occur during a 30-day period fails to meet the threshold requirements of a plant closing or mass layoff, but the number of employment losses for 2 or more groups of workers, each of which is less than the minimum number needed to trigger notice, reaches the threshold level, during any 90-day period, of either a plant closing or mass layoff. Job losses within any 90-day period will count together towardWARN threshold levels, unless the employer demonstrates that the employment losses during the 90-day period are the result of separate and distinct actions and causes.

Sale of Businesses

In a situation involving the sale of part or all of a business, the following requirements apply. (1) In each situation, there is always an employer responsible for giving notice. (2) If the sale by a covered employer results in a covered plant closing or mass layoff, the required parties (discussed later) must receive at least 60 days notice. (3) The seller is responsible for providing notice of any covered plant closing or mass layoff which occurs up to and including the date/time of the sale. (4) The buyer is responsible for providing notice of any covered plant closing or mass layoff which occurs after the date/time of the sale. (5) No notice is required if the sale does not result in a covered plant closing or mass layoff. (6) Employees of the seller (other than employees who have worked less than 6 months in the last 12 months or employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week) on the date/time of the sale become, for purposes of WARN, employees of the buyer immediately following the sale. This provision preserves the notice rights of the employees of a business that has been sold.

Employment Loss

The term “employment loss” means:

(1) An employment termination, other than a discharge for cause, voluntary departure, or retirement;

(2) a layoff exceeding 6 months; or

(3) a reduction in an employee’s hours of work of more than 50% in each month of any 6-month period.

Exceptions: An employee who refuses a transfer to a different employment site within reasonable commuting distance does not experience an employment loss. An employee who accepts a transfer outside this distance within 30 days after it is offered or within 30 days after the plant closing or mass layoff, whichever is later, does not experience an employment loss. In both cases, the transfer offer must be made before the closing or layoff, there must be no more than a 6 month break in employment, and the new job must not be deemed a constructive discharge. These transfer exceptions from the “employment loss” definition apply only if the closing or layoff results from the relocation or consolidation of part or all of the employer’s business.


An employer does not need to give notice if a plant closing is the closing of a temporary facility, or if the closing or mass layoff is the result of the completion of a particular project or undertaking. This exemption applies only if the workers were hired with the understanding that their employment was limited to the duration of the facility, project or undertaking. An employer cannot label an ongoing project “temporary” in order to evade its obligations under WARN.

An employer does not need to provide notice to strikers or to workers who are part of the bargaining unit(s) which are involved in the labor negotiations that led to a lockout when the strike or lockout is equivalent to a plant closing or mass layoff. Non-striking employees who experience an employment loss as a direct or indirect result of a strike and workers who are not part of the bargaining unit(s) which are involved in the labor negotiations that led to a lockout are still entitled to notice.

An employer does not need to give notice when permanently replacing a person who is an “economic striker” as defined under the National Labor Relations Act.

Who Must Receive Notice

The employer must give written notice to the chief elected officer of the exclusive representative(s) or bargaining agency(s) of affected employees and to unrepresented individual workers who may reasonably be expected to experience an employment loss. This includes employees who may lose their employment due to “bumping,” or displacement by other workers, to the extent that the employer can identify those employees when notice is given. If an employer cannot identify employees who may lose their jobs through bumping procedures, the employer must provide notice to the incumbents in the jobs which are being eliminated. Employees who have worked less than 6 months in the last 12 months and employees who work an average of less than 20 hours a week are due notice, even though they are not counted when determining the trigger levels.

The employer must also provide notice to the State dislocated worker unit and to the chief elected official of the unit of local government in which the employment site is located.

Notification Period

With three exceptions, notice must be timed to reach the required parties at least 60 days before a closing or layoff. When the individual employment separations for a closing or layoff occur on more than one day, the notices are due to the representative(s), State dislocated worker unit and local government at least 60 days before each separation. If the workers are not represented, each worker’s notice is due at least 60 days before that worker’s separation.

The exceptions to 60-day notice are:

(1) Faltering company. This exception, to be narrowly construed, covers situations where a company has sought new capital or business in order to stay open and where giving notice would ruin the opportunity to get the new capital or business, and applies only to plant closings;

(2) unforeseeable business circumstances. This exception applies to closings and layoffs that are caused by business circumstances that were not reasonably foreseeable at the time notice would otherwise have been required; and

(3) Natural disaster. This applies where a closing or layoff is the direct result of a natural disaster, such as a flood, earthquake, drought or storm.

If an employer provides less than 60 days advance notice of a closing or layoff and relies on one of these three exceptions, the employer bears the burden of proof that the conditions for the exception have been met. The employer also must give as much notice as is practicable. When the notices are given, they must include a brief statement of the reason for reducing the notice period in addition to the items required in notices.

Form and Content of Notice

No particular form of notice is required. However, all notices must be in writing. Any reasonable method of delivery designed to ensure receipt 60 days before a closing or layoff is acceptable.

Notice must be specific. Notice may be given conditionally upon the occurrence or non-occurrence of an event only when the event is definite and its occurrence or nonoccurrence will result in a covered employment action less than 60 days after the event.

The content of the notices to the required parties is listed in section 639.7 of the WARN final regulations. Additional notice is required when the date(s) or 14-day period(s) for a planned plant closing or mass layoff are extended beyond the date(s) or 14-day period(s) announced in the original notice.


No particular form of record is required. The information employers will use to determine whether, to whom, and when they must give notice is information that employers usually keep in ordinary business practices and in complying with other laws and regulations.


An employer who violates the WARN provisions by ordering a plant closing or mass layoff without providing appropriate notice is liable to each aggrieved employee for an amount including back pay and benefits for the period of violation, up to 60 days. The employer’s liability may be reduced by such items as wages paid by the employer to the employee during the period of the violation and voluntary and unconditional payments made by the employer to the employee.

An employer who fails to provide notice as required to a unit of local government is subject to a civil penalty not to exceed $500 for each day of violation. This penalty may be avoided if the employer satisfies the liability to each aggrieved employee within 3 weeks after the closing or layoff is ordered by the employer.


Enforcement of WARN requirements is through the United States district courts. Workers, representatives of employees and units of local government may bring individual or class action suits. In any suit, the court, in its discretion, may allow the prevailing party a reasonable attorney’s fee as part of the costs.


Specific requirements of the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act may be found in the Act itself, Public Law 100-379 (29 U.S.C. 210l, et seq.) The Department of Labor published final regulations on April 20, 1989 in theFederal Register (Vol. 54, No. 75). The regulations appear at 20 CFR Part 639.

General questions on the regulations may be addressed to:

U.S. Department of Labor
Employment and Training Administration
Office of Work-Based Learning
Room N-5426
200 Constitution Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D.C. 20210
(202) 219-5577

The Department of Labor, since it has no administrative or enforcement responsibility under WARN, cannot provide specific advice or guidance with respect to individual situations.

This is one of a series of fact sheets highlighting U.S. Department of Labor programs. It is intended as a general description only and does not carry the force of legal opinion.

My Heart Will Go On

Ever have one of those days where the news outside The Firm is just as bad if not worse than what little info you can gather inside The Firm? I’m talking about the recent problems on Wall Street, not on Montgomery Street.

The problems on Montgomery Street barely rate a blip on the newswires, locally or nationally, but by the end of the month, the end of Q3, I’m sure the Chronicle or the Trib will pick it up. It has been called the Lehmanization of Heller Ehrman.

Right now is not the time to play “shoulda, coulda, woulda.” There will be plenty of time during the post-mortem of the bloated corpse that was Heller Ehrman to play CSI, point fingers, assign blame and walk away in a huff. Right now is the time when professional support staff who have tried to believe the line of bullsh*t fed to them by management need to gather together, pull down the life boats, make sure everyone is safe, and get the hell out while the deck is still at an angle, and not vertical.

In this past decade, we’ve all learned that when the man on the intercom says, “Everything is fine. Stay where you are. There is no danger,” that you haul ass and get the hell out or at least make plans for when you feel comfortable leaving. That time is now.

We all know that over the next few days management will make attempts to seem concerned, watchful and caring – all in line with their much touted “respect and dignity” policy. But as with any disaster, being pro-active, being positive, and helping each other is the way to survive. As the shareholders, at least those that are left, are pulling out their dry and golden life preservers, we’ll do what many of us have done in the past (remember Brobeck?):

– stay focused
– be creative
– help each other out
– encourage
– celebrate successes
– briefly note defeats
– and do what our leaders failed to do:

lead and communicate!

So there it is and have at it. Please review the Terms of Service for the code of conduct during a disaster. This is not a drill. I repeat: this is not a drill.

Life preserver.jpg
Remember the words of Rev. Frank Scott (Gene Hackman in The Poseidon Adventure):

". . . sitting on our butts is not going to help us either. Maybe by climbing out of here, we can save ourselves. If you've got any sense, you'll come along with us."

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This blog has been created by Thomas MacEntee.

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Terms of Service

Heller Highwater (
Last Modified: September 14, 2008

- Don't be a dill weed.

- Treat other people the way you want to be treated.

- Ladies and children first.

- This is a rescue, not a bitch session.

- Help don't harm.

- Save the snarks for the attorneys and Above The Law.

Heller Highwater is not:

- a place to practice viscious and vindictive "whisper down the lane" rumour-mongering;

- a place to bad mouth co-workers;

- a place for diatribes against specific people or specific incidents;

- a place to heap pity on poor Heller Ehrman staff by outsiders;

- a place that discriminates or sets margins noting who is outside and who is inside - we even welcome supportive Heller Ehrman attorneys!;

- meant to further the demise of Heller Ehrman, LLP.

Heller Highwater is:

- a place for support, a place of empowerment, a place of passion;

- a place to learn about job leads, resume preparation, skill building, training, new opportunities, and how to succeed in a new workplace;

- a place to keep up on the latest news as to how Heller Ehrman management intends to treat its support staff as it winds down its operations - will it be every woman for herself? or will it be "let me hold the door for you and is there anything else I can do for you"?

- a place of refuge.

Note: in no way, shape or form is Heller Highwater sanctioned, supported or even recognized, (but it is very likely monitored) by the management of Heller Erhman, LLP. The opinions represented here and on each and every page of Heller Highwater do not constitute the opinions of Heller Ehrman, LLP or its shareholders or its management. In addition, the comments left by visitors do not reflect the opinions of Heller Highwater.