Despite the fact that we keep hearing rumors that the recession is over and that things are picking up, there are analysts in the banking field who believe, according to a new survey, that the legal field is in for another round of layoffs.
According to the ABA Journal, lower yearly average billables are leading to more layoffs, particularly for staff. Between 2000 – 2007, average billables were 1700 – 1800. This year, that number dropped to 1600. As a result, Howrey recently laid off 32 staffers and DLA Piper laid off enough to attract the press although the firm did not disclose the number.
This is a particularly tough scene for paralegals dependent upon the rainmakers of the firm for work and not always responsible for the number of billable hours they can generate. Of course, there is always "busy work" but the double-dinging of racking up hours for the sake of meeting an 1800 billable requirement is only to have hours written-off. Not a pretty picture either way.
"Unless law firms see substantial increases in revenue or productivity, they will likely cut more support staffers, experts from both organizations told the New York Law Journal." Yikes. We've just settled in, know where the coffee room is and how to call the help desk when the ole computer freezes.
"Net income is up about 10 percent because of layoffs and other expense reductions, Wells Fargo says."
Then there is also the competition: "Out of the nation’s top 200 firms, those ranked 50th to 100th are suffering more of a decline in demand, according Dan DiPietro, chairman of Citi’s law firm group, in an article for the Am Law Daily he co-wrote with Citi’s senior client advisor Gretta Rusanow. These firms “may be getting squeezed,” they write, by smaller firms able to offer better rates and larger firms “going down-market.”
Paralegals – beware! Watch for signs of upcoming layoffs! Are partners having an unusually high number of meetings behind closed doors? Are certain benefits slipping away? Is a recruiter/counselor lurking in the conference room preparing to do some counseling? Is there a hiring freeze? All of these are signs of change – and not necessarily change that will make you feel warm, cozy and secure.
Have that resume ready. Start scoping the job market and, as my friends over at the Boy Scouts have been telling us for years, "Be prepared."
PS: The latest issue of KNOW Magazine for Paralegals is here! Download a complimentary issue full of great information on the latest technology, trends, issues, careers, people and events. There are some valuable articles such as How to Land a Great LitSupport Job and 10 eDiscovery Technology Predictions for 2011.