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mystery-11The managing partner of a large AmLaw firm calls a meeting early the first Monday morning of a weeklong firm retreat.

He informs the crowd of lawyers that due to the current economy, layoffs must take place. He states definitively that at least one lawyer will be laid off.

The HR department has prepared a bright red “Hello My Name is: FIRED” stamp to be used on all the attorneys that will be laid off.

To encourage bonding among the new unnecessarily large summer associate class (all with offers in hand) they were charged with stamping each laid off associate on the back of their neck with the red “Hello My Name is: FIRED” stamp.  Alternatively, non-laid off attorneys were stamped with a green stamp that stated “SAFE.”

Since the layoffs were a touchy subject no lawyer discusses them or anything related to them when talking to the other lawyers during the retreat.

However, each lawyer has an opportunity to observe the back of each other lawyers’ neck every day during retreat events. Every lawyer that is a member of the firm is at the retreat and each lawyer attends all scheduled retreat events.

Further, no lawyer ever leaves the retreat grounds, and the retreat hotel is a new construction, so unfortunately mirrors have not yet been installed. In fact, there is positively no way any lawyer can view their own back (including the back of their neck).

Since these lawyers were once top law school performers and had achieved high LSAT scores they are all perfect reasoners  and make all deductions possible at the first point in time at which such deductions are able to be made.

Finally, as soon as any lawyer can deduce that they were included in the layoffs that lawyer retires to the retreat hospitality suite and immediately signs a severance agreement with HR and leaves the retreat never to return (possibly to start their own blog(s)).

The retreat week plays out in the following way:

During Monday’s retreat meetings:  All firm lawyers are present.
Tuesday’s retreat meetings: All firm lawyers are present.
Wednesday’s retreat meetings: All firm lawyers are present.
Thursday’s retreat meetings: All firm lawyers are present.
Friday’s retreat meetings: All firm lawyers are present.
Saturday’s retreat meetings:  The laid off Lawyers determined who they were and all of them were missing from the firm meetings.

How many laid off attorneys were there?

I wish I could say the prize for the first person who solves this riddle will be a job, but we all know I can’t promise that. What I can promise is some recognition and self-satisfaction two things the current job market doesn’t regularly allow for ! You can submit your proposed answers via e-mail to or as a comment below, and yes there is an actual answer it is not a trick question.


  • T14 and laid off anyway

    1. There was a formal event on Friday night and, while the lawyers could not see the back of their own necks, they could see if red or green ink had rubbed off on their white shirt collars.

    2. When the laid-off lawyers checked their voice mail on Friday night, they found that their passwords no longer worked.

    3. If a lawyer was no longer there on Saturday, he might be a red neck (with apologies to Jeff Foxworthy).

    4. If the firm can’t afford a hotel with mirrors, no wonder they are laying people off.

  • Gerald Bove

    I’m going to have to expand on point 4 of the above commentors post. The firm is closing and all the lawyers are being laid off.

    Or maybe to go with the theme of the blog (jobless lawyer), there actually was no retreat, it was all a dream.

  • joblesslawyer

    First off your name is brilliant (although it makes me want to cry, once I get over that I find it quite humorous).

    Second there is an actual answer that does not require any additional assumptions (such as whether or not the lawyers have blackberries or whether or not there was a formal with ink rubbing off).

    However, you are awarded points for numbers 3 and 4 for creativity and humor !

    Keep em’ coming !

  • joblesslawyer

    Well yes i’m sure the firm ultimately did conduct another round of massive layoffs and probably folded under … but there is a real answer to the riddle !

  • joblesslawyer

    Your second guess is pretty good too, since a joblesslawyer has nowhere to go there is plenty of time for dreaming although its not the correct numeric answer I was looking for!

  • Zach

    Everyone except observant Jews was laid off and the Saturday firm meeting was held at a Synagogue.

    Game, set, and match.

  • joblesslawyer

    Valiant effort but… no.

  • employedengineer

    I must say, this is a brilliant adaptation. Kudos! I can’t wait for the next one.

  • kady

    It can’t be one because if at least one will be laid off, then the one who sees that every other lawyer in the room has a green stamp on their neck will leave after the first day, knowing that he is the laid off attorney.

    And it can’t be all because if an attorney sees that everyone else has a laid off stamp on their neck, the only deduction they can reach is that it is possible (though not probable) that they alone were spared. This deduction would not change at any point during the course of the week.

    It also can’t be 2 – because it would only take 2 days to figure deduce this. Assuming you are one of the 2 fired lawyers, you would see the one other fired lawyer. If that lawyer does not leave by the second day, it can only be because he sees one other fired lawyer. Which would have to be you. Then both lawyers would leave by the third day.

    This pattern would hold true for 3, 4, and 5 lawyers. As no lawyers leave, you can expand the number of fired lawyers by one. Therefore, there were 6 fired lawyers, who all leave on the last, or sixth day of the retreat

  • joblesslawyer

    Kady excellent !!!!! That is absolutely right. I wish I had a prize for you, but for now you can relish in your own wit and insight. Also, here you go: .

  • JoblessLawyer

    Valiant effort but… no.

  • JoblessLawyer

    Kady excellent !!!!! That is absolutely right. I wish I had a prize for you, but for now you can relish in your own wit and insight. Also, here you go: .

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