Good or Bad Economy, More Layoffs Predicted for Associates & Staff

Some folks just can’t catch a break.  The New York Lawyer reported that major law firms are expected to layoff more associates and staff whether or not the economy picks up – or so they would like you to believe.

Only one firm, Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, said it had anything to do with the economy. Calling the layoffs "redundancies and inefficiencies", the present tough economy seems to have brought some firms to the point of reviewing staff to attorney ratios.

Nationally, the most recent layoff news came from Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, which let go of 37 attorneys, 75 staff members and 12 non-lawyer timekeepers.

Holland & Knight laid off 70 legal secretaries firmwide over what the firm called "redundancies and inefficiencies," according to a report by the Miami Daily Business Review.

Thelen Reid Brown Raysman & Steiner laid off 26 associates and 85 staff in March. Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft let 35 associates go, 24 Thacher Proffitt mid-levels took buyouts plus an additional five first-years who took optional buyouts, six Clifford Chance associates were laid off and 23 associates at McKee Nelson took buyouts. Several other firms have reportedly laid off staff as well.

According to The New York Lawyer, Peggy Dixon, a recruiter with Abelson Legal Search, said large firms almost always take in new associate classes regardless of the economy. Sometimes there is an over-hire and sometimes firms get it just right, she said. It’s difficult to predict where the economy will be when firms are hiring a year or so in advance, she said.

A word to the wise from a former recruiter: Paralegals, learn about law firm economics! Sheldon Bonovitz, chairman emeritus of Duane Morris, said he wouldn’t be surprised to hear of more layoffs in this market given most consultants are predicting that law firm revenues are missing the revenue mark by 10 percent or more this year.

Our experience has shown us that generally, law firms will cut excess staff and non-revenue producing staff before cutting a top producer. If you have been casual about meeting required billables, now is the time to revise your thinking.

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