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30+ days ago

Trusts & Estates Associate

Winston & Strawn Chicago, IL

We are looking for a mid-level associate with 3-5 years of solid trusts & estates experience. The ideal candidate would have experience working with… Winston & Strawn

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Tom Fitzgerald
3 Ratings
  • 3 people found this helpful

    Eye Opening & Disappointing

    • Comp & Benefits
    • Work/Life Balance
    • Senior Management
    • Culture & Values
    • Career Opportunities
    Former Employee - Legal Secretary in Washington, DC
    Former Employee - Legal Secretary in Washington, DC

    I worked at Winston & Strawn full-time (more than a year)


    Working for a large law firm like this one looks good on your resume, as long as you're leaving on your own terms of course. The benefits are good, staff receive 2 personal days, 7 sick days and a floating holiday to be used. Due to the many companies they work with and represent, employees can also take advantage of discounts with many of those companies.

    Pastries/Donuts on pay days


    Unfortunately the cons outweigh the pros. During my time at this firm I felt like any day could be my last. Human resources in the office made staff feel like prisoners, actually, they made the staff members that were not "favorites" feel like prisoners. Several employees stated they had at one point or another felt targeted by HR in what could be seen as a racially biased way.

    Their dress policy was not only extremely inflexible but also extremely unclear. Their policies stated "business casual" but they constantly threatened employees that actually wore business casual with write ups. HR also made is a habit to comment on other appearance related things like "tired faces" and what they considered "unprofessional hair", which unlike what you might believe had little to do with crazy hair colors or cuts and a lot to do with how it was worn: curly, straight, wavy, etc.

    Their jeans day policy while appreciated had been thought through far too much. Only denim pants, nothing else. Employees constantly received the reminder that they could not wear denim jackets, skirts, dresses, and the list went on.

    The environment was toxic. Their HR department, which unlike other places should act as a mediator, has created an environment where the employees are constantly worried about what they will be in trouble for. Their staff members are required to clock in/out. Seems easy enough but that too was something that made people constantly worried. If an employee clocked in at 9:08 vs 9:07 they were required to work an extra 15 minutes or they would be docked pay. If an employee worked a few minutes later it became an issue of "why didn't you request prior approval to work overtime".

    Staff is seen a disposable and unintelligent. While not all attorneys behave this way, some of them won't even look at a staff member let alone speak to them if they pass them in the hallway or share an elevator. Several lunches/get together are held each month for attorneys but it's known that staff are not welcome.

    Staff vs staff: other staff members sometimes go out of their way to get HR on someone's case. There's a lot of drama in their office. People bad-mouthing, spying, lying about each other. In some cases they even go as far and searching through the personal property of other employees and reporting their findings to HR.

    Overall the problem doesn't seem to be the attorneys, as many of them express their disdain for the way HR runs the offices. The invisible line that separates the attorneys from the staff (riff raff) is created by those managing the offices, which is HR (seems like a conflict of interest).

    HR "runs the joint", the attorneys have no real say in the future of those staff members they work with. Even when employees get good reviews from their assigned people, they can be written up for petty reasons.

    As far as advancement opportunities...well it depends on what you do. Legal secretaries will stay that way. Their raises aren't exactly generous and neither are their bonuses. Their bonuses "trickle down" so staff gets the short end of the stick.

    Conservative like you wouldn't believe. One of the first things I saw during my time at this firm was a message sent to the whole firm by an attorney that was leaving...where he told everyone he was going to fight to protect the sanctity marriage (between a man & a woman) which several homosexual attorneys and staff were included. Yes, the political views of those in positions of power were ok to shove down people's throat. Further proving the lack of respect for others.

    Their weather policy was/is extremely inconsiderate. Since the policies are created by individuals with very easy commutes they do not take into consideration those that need to commute from outside of the city limits.

    Honesty is punished. Employees that leave the firm on their own terms but decide to share with management why they've left are treated like criminals. They are not allowed to say goodbye to their fellow coworkers, instead once the employee expressed why they chose to leave and even give advice they are immediately escorted off the premises as if they were a threat of some sort. Retaliation is also common so if you do change employers, do not provide them information on the new one as some people are known to ruin outside opportunities for those that quit.

    Advice to ManagementAdvice

    Stop treating your employees like disposable bags of meat. Regardless of whether they have a JD or not, they are still humans as well as adults, both worthy of respect. Remove some of the power you've erroneously placed in the hands of your HR departments. Their jobs should be to mediate between management and staff not make staff feel like that have no one to go to with a problem.

    Eliminate things that can become a conflict of issue. Supervisors should not be best friends with those underneath them, especially when they're managing the offices. Employees should feel safe approaching the supervisor or someone who is harassing them or doing something wrong, not feel like things will become worse because they're going to "watch out for each other".

    This one is a stretch, but consider being more generous (financially) with your staff. It's difficult to understand this when you're making 400K plus, but a lot of them struggle daily. If you reduced those bonuses associates and partners get by even 5K, you'd be making a huge difference in your staff's life.

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