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April 17, 2009 10:54 AM

Skadden Staff Attorney Survives Hudson Crash, but Loses Job

Posted by Zach Lowe


The good reporters at msnbc.com may have found the craziest legal layoff story yet: the tale of Frank Scudere, a former staff attorney at Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom that the firm planned to lay off on Jan. 16--the day after Scudere survived the now-famous Hudson River crash landing of US Airways flight 1549. 

The firm has laid off nearly all of its 50 staff attorneys, but they held off letting Scudere go because of the plane crash. But on March 26, the Skadden HR staff came calling, and it was time for Scudere to go. They cut off his health insurance immediately and gave him three hours to leave the building. Here's Scudere, who commuted between New York City and his home in South Carolina during his time at Skadden, on the firm's decision to lay him off:

"I was totally blindsided because I was told there would be no more layoffs," he told msnbc.com. "I don't feel like I deserved special treatment. I just deserved to be treated civilly. I'm a 48-year-old attorney, and I've worked at Big Six accounting firms. I've been laid off before. I've laid people off before, but I've never been treated like that before. It's bereft of any dignity."

Skadden's response? An anonymous spokesman confirmed the staff attorney layoffs and told msnbc.com the firm tries to let people go in a "sensitive and humane manner." He added: "But we recognize these things aren't easy." The firm did pay Scudere for eight weeks after his last day and gave him $500 in exchange for agreeing not to sue--apparently the firm's standard agreement.

Between the crash and his dismissal, Scudere lost his 77-year-old father to kidney disease. He still hasn't told his kids, ages 9 and 4, about the crash, because he doesn't want them to be scared. 

As for work, the job market hasn't been kind so far, Scudere tells msnbc.com. "There are no jobs, even temp work, in big cities for lawyers. I'm thinking of becoming a teacher or working for a nonprofit, but I need to support my family."

The whole story is really a great read, and Scudere even adds some fresh detail about the crash--including questioning a flight attendant's account that a passenger opened a rear door to the plane after the crash landing, flooding it with water. 

We'll give Scudere the last word: "I feel displaced. Who am I? My identity as an attorney--that's gone."

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Unfortunately, (but perhaps not too surprisingly,) the story posted at MSNBC.com on "Newsvine," seems to be generating mostly negative comments.

Apparently, most respondents feel that being involved in a plane crash, losing a parent, and losing one's job within a two-month time period is not traumatic or worth any sympathy....if it happens to an attorney.

I am sorry for "both" your losses Mr Scudere. My thought, what once was a "professional setting" if you will unfortunately today is no longer, and that is sad, very sad.

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