Eight years ago, the vast majority of the legal market turned up their noses at firms like Shearman & Sterling, Pillsbury Winthrop, and Clifford Chance when they laid people off.
That stigma is long gone. As we showed earlier this year, layoffs hit firms from top to bottom in the Vault 100.
After the jump, the final figures for the year.
Cutting right to the chase: we tracked 12,196 people laid off by major firms in 2009, of which 4,633 were lawyers and 7,563 were staff. Make sure to check the tracker for the methodology – and we’re aware that layoffs are severely underreported, a trend that increased as the year went on. All of this information comes from aggregating reports of layoffs published in the media or when we break the story ourselves, so you can go to the tracker to find the original source material. If you have a comment on how we categorized something, let us know.
All told, we tracked 218 reports of layoffs at 138 law firms in 2009. Clifford Chance led the way, with an astonishing 10 different events reported. DLA Piper had seven, Baker & McKenzie six, and Cadwalader, Dechert and Faegre & Benson each had four. Twelve other firms had three and 27 had two, leaving 93 firms that had a single round of layoffs reported.
This year’s story was largely written by the end of March, when 63% of the year’s total layoffs had happened, as we noted in our mid-year review. The pace has slowed even further since. Eighty-eight percent had been done by mid-year, leaving “just” 1,473 layoffs for the last six months of the year – four fewer than in a single week in March.
The monthly charts show just how precipitously the pace dropped off (click for larger).
The scale on that is daunting, so here are just the last six months.
The next chart shows the months’ relative totals (legend at the bottom, but read clockwise starting with January at noon, so March is about 4:00 to 8:00).
Further reinforcing the notion that law firms moved in a pack, all 10 of the worst days for lawyer layoffs were in the first quarter, five were in the first two weeks of March alone.
Here are the top 10 firms based on total layoffs in 2009. (Note: these charts vary slightly from the regular Top 10 lists, which are always available and automatically updated, because these are filtered for 2009 layoffs only).
And here they are based just on number of lawyers laid off in the year.
Not surprisingly, the largest firms account for the vast majority of layoffs. (And don’t forget, we only track layoffs at major firms – see our methodology) Since we broke down the layoffs against the Global 100 back in July, this time we take a look at just the US side of things.
All told, 76 firms in the AmLaw 100 laid people off this year, and those 76 firms laid off 8,496 people (3,222 lawyers, 5,274 staff). The biggest cut was DLA Piper’s 526 (168 lawyers, 358 staff – and another aside, we can only count DLA Piper on a global basis, but its AmLaw ranking is based just on US operations) down to Haynes & Boone’s three (one lawyer, two staff). The cuts here went literally from top (#1 Skadden laid off 80 staff attorneys) to bottom (#100 Kilpatrick Stockton laid off 24 lawyers).
|Layoffs in the AmLaw 100 (Top 10)|
|2||Baker & McKenzie||323||120||203|
|3||Latham & Watkins||440||190||250|
|6||White & Case||409||209||200|
|7||Kirkland & Ellis||155||75||80|
The top 10 of the AmLaw 100 account for 15.94% of the total layoffs in 2009.
As we constantly report in the “This Week in Layoffs” series, US unemployment is likely to hover in the 10+% range for the near future and there isn’t a whole lot of reason to believe that firms will be staffing up to 2007 levels any time soon. To the contrary, we expect a particularly aggressive round of performance-related (a/k/a “stealth”) layoffs in the coming months as annual-review season heats up. Still, some firms may have weathered the storm: bonuses have been reported at almost two dozen firms.
Finally, our profound thanks to the following sources which have done the yeoman’s work of reporting and verifying the stories (and, for the hell of it, we counted up how many stories they broke):
- Above the Law (116)
- AmLaw Daily (6)
- Wall Street Journal’s Law Blog (4)
- Boston Common Law (1 – and it only seems to have lasted two months)
- The Globe and Mail (1)
- Times Online (1)
- The Kansas City Star (1)
- Our own tipsters! (2)
- Blog of the Legal Times (1)
- Tex Parte Blog (2)
- Times Online (2)
- ABA Journal (7)
- Bizjournals (2)
- Crain’s Chicago Business (1)
- Hartford Courant (1)
- Connecticut Law Tribune (1)
- Law.com (19)
- LegalWeek (30)
- New York Lawyer (2)
- Portfolio.com (1)
- The Australian (1)
- The Lawyer (10)
And, of course, thanks to all of you for your support. It’s been an amazing first year (about which, more later).
More importantly, keep an eye out for some very cool projects we’ve got planned for 2010.