This Week in Layoffs – 3/13/09

by lawshucks on March 13, 2009

ring-girl-cardThe trend for this week is “second (and subsequent) rounds.”  We’re seeing a number of firms that have had previous layoffs trimming further. 

White & Case was one of the first top-tier US firms to do a massive layoff back in November.  At the time, everyone was shocked by the numbers: 70 lawyers, 100 staff.  The bar has been substantially raised since then, but W&C continues to surprise.

Round 2 was far worse: 200 lawyers, 200 staff.  That vaulted the firm back to the top of the table.  In fact, White & Case has completed a trifecta: #1 in total layoffs, layoffs of attorneys and layoffs of staff, an ignominious feat.

It’s on to Round 3 for Baker & McKenzie, one of the few US firms larger than White & Case, which has announced further cuts in London.  The firm laid off 20 staff in London in January, and is now seeking to sever up to 85 more in the office.  Bakers was the first to announce layoffs in calendar 2009, when six lawyers were fired in New York.

Paul Hastings is also on Round 3, following an unknown number in Atlanta in early February, and stealth layoffs in Los Angeles and Shanghai later in the month, the firm laid off 131 – 44 attorneys, 87 staff.

None can compete (yet) with Halliwells, a UK Top 50 firm that is on its FOURTH round of redundancy consultations.  The firm has fired 40 people already and 30 are in scope of the current activity – 15 lawyers, 15 staff.  I can’t imagine how horrible morale must be over there.

More trends and analysis after the jump.

The hot topic of recent weeks has been “Which day has been the worst for layoffs?”  January 29 (652) and February 12 (643) were the previous recordholders, but this week began with a bang and took the top spot, largely on the heels of White & Case’s actions.  Monday, March 9 (“Monday Bloody Monday“) saw 737 people lose jobs at major law firms: 400 at White & Case, 216 at Morgan Lewis & Bockius, and 121 at K&L Gates.  For detailed analysis, see here.

We’ll have to go back and update that text (although the charts update automagically).  Monday came in at #1 with a bullet, and many hoped that Wednesday would be a bit of a reprieve; there was nothing all day until word came out late of Proskauer Rose laying off 23.  Unfortunately, firms picked right up where they left off: 485 people were laid off on Thursday March 12, making it the 6th-worst day of layoffs since January 2008. 

Even Tuesday March 10 made the Top 10 list, with 232 – 90 attorneys, 142 staff, the bulk of which came from Paul Hastings.

The other trend that continues is stealth layoffs.  Most recently, rumors about Davis Polk have been increasing, but they go back at least as far as January.  Where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.  At the time, we also reported rumors of stealth layoffs at Latham & Watkins (which then announced 440 on February 27), Cooley Godward (112 on January 21), Alston & Bird (still quiet), Hogan & Hartson (149 on Feb. 17), DLA Piper (180 on February 12, and other smaller actions subsequent), and Winston & Strawn (still quiet).

The Law Shucks opinion (with which ATL has nothing to do), on stealth layoffs is here.  We’ll continue to try to root out this information.

Updates to the tracker:

* King & Spalding came in too late for last week’s update, although everyone knew it was coming.  The firm laid off 37 associates and 85 staff late last Friday afternoon.

* Husch Blackwell Sanders, which has problems with transparency, made the cut – but only because I was shocked to discover the firm has almost 700 lawyers.  I wonder how many other firms of that size I’ve never heard of – and should they count as BigLaw?

* Two Clifford Chance layoffs that were reportedly separately (10 each) were included in the larger redundancy.  They have been removed.

Didn’t add:

* Blake Lapthorn, a UK firm that ended up cutting only 20 people, 10 fewer than the 30 in scope of the redundancy consultation;

* Pircher Nichols, which laid off 8 attorneys and provided a commendable level of detail; and

* Gardere Wynn Sewell disputes reports that it laid off 20 attorneys and 40 staff.  You may remember Gardere as the firm where one of the lawyers negotiated an extensive coin-flipping dispute-resolution procedure.

Not surprisingly, with three of the 10 worst individual days having happened this week, the numbers continue to disappoint:

1,477 for the week (603 lawyers, 874 staff)
2,731 for the month (977 lawyers, 1,754 staff)
7,092 for calendar 2009 (2,874 lawyers, 4,218 staff)

  • W&CVeteran

    The really interesting part of the W&C statement relating to the layoffs was the declaration that partner pruning will come next. Having worked at W&C, I can state with complete confidence that there is no shortage of useless, arrogant, dickhead partners who deserve to be thrown overboard. Most of those losers couldn't bag a client with an elephant gun and deserve to be fired. Frankly, it should have happened years ago.

    • Whitey

      Maybe some of those bank finance partners can take adult ed classes on bankruptcy?

  • W&CVeteran

    The really interesting part of the W&C statement relating to the layoffs was the declaration that partner pruning will come next. Having worked at W&C, I can state with complete confidence that there is no shortage of useless, arrogant, dickhead partners who deserve to be thrown overboard. Most of those losers couldn't bag a client with an elephant gun and deserve to be fired. Frankly, it should have happened years ago.

    • Whitey

      Maybe some of those bank finance partners can take adult ed classes on bankruptcy?

  • Joe

    Life can really suck!!!

  • Joe

    Life can really suck!!!

  • lawrookie

    I'm graduating this spring from a 4th tier law school. I have no intention of landing a job at a huge firm; I hope to do local government work. My fear is that as more and more firms let people go, I will be crowded out of what I see as my best option. What's malpractice insurance like for a rookie solo??

  • lawrookie

    I'm graduating this spring from a 4th tier law school. I have no intention of landing a job at a huge firm; I hope to do local government work. My fear is that as more and more firms let people go, I will be crowded out of what I see as my best option. What's malpractice insurance like for a rookie solo??

  • boomerrang

    Your 'profession' is nothing more than a scam that has sent the USA into an economic tailspin. Shady lawsuits, ambulance chasing, slip and falls, malpractice suits, etc have made it impossible to do business here. I for one will relish the day I see you and your family panhanding in the street, Calcutta style. Your profession did this to the economy, now its the economy's turn to do it to you. PS I know this is an old post but I couldnt resist.

  • boomerrang

    Your 'profession' is nothing more than a scam that has sent the USA into an economic tailspin. Shady lawsuits, ambulance chasing, slip and falls, malpractice suits, etc have made it impossible to do business here. I for one will relish the day I see you and your family panhanding in the street, Calcutta style. Your profession did this to the economy, now its the economy's turn to do it to you. PS I know this is an old post but I couldnt resist.

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