This Week in Layoffs – 2/20/10

by lawshucks on February 20, 2010

Pic: U. Chicago

Here we are, a year after enactment of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and still facing unemployment in the 10% range. That anniversary has brought to the fore once again debate over whether the stimulus bill has worked. President Obama is in the difficult position of trying to prove that things would have been worse had they not acted.

Those who have studied logic will recognize that as the fallacy of argumentum ad ignorantiam – i.e., the plan must have worked simply because no one has proven that the economy would be worse otherwise.

Those who watch late-night television will just call it “truthiness” and move on. Some of just know with our hearts.

The Washington Post puts the results somewhere in the middle:

Nevertheless, at its core, the president’s argument is correct. Over the past year, the act has provided $119 billion in tax relief to households and firms; $147 billion in aid to states, unemployment benefits, food stamps and the like; and $31 billion for roads, energy efficiency and other projects. You cannot inject $300 billion — an amount equal to about 2 percent of U.S. gross domestic product — into the economy without stimulating some short-run economic activity that would not have occurred otherwise.

Trying to show how many jobs were “saved or created” is a waste of time, they say; some must have been, contrary to Republican claims that “not one net job” has been created.

On the other hand, there’s plenty of room for criticizing the efficiency of the government’s actions.

And that’s what we’ve been saying about law firms’ behavior for a long time now.

Back on the law-firm front, it’s a return to normal this week with a slight twist. Normal, in 2010, seems to mean that layoffs are reported at a single firm every week. If you take out Marks & Clerk, which laid off one person in connection with office consolidations, there has been one reported layoff (lawyers, staff, or both) every week this year: Cahill Gordon for the week ending January 8, Seyfarth Shaw for the week ending January 15, Wilson Sonsini for the week ending January 22, Morrison & Foerster for the week ending January 29, and Howrey for the week ending February 5.

Last week it was Drinker Biddle, which laid off seven lawyers in Chicago, although that announcement came after we had “gone to press.”

This week, it was Ashursts, which cut “fewer than 10.” Partners. That’s on top of a net decrease in headcount of 27 partners since May 1, although some of those 27 may also be due to retirement and voluntary withdrawals.

That should provide a fair bit of schadenfreude to associates who are fit to be tied with the outpouring of “revenue down profits up” reports as the American Lawyer prepares its 2009 lists (see, e.g., Sidley Austin, Latham & Watkins, and Greenberg Traurig).

Pleasure in the misery of others is hollow, though. Fortunately, there have been a few announcements of affirmative good news. The Law Shucks Bonus Tracker keeps getting new additions, despite the traditional season being long past.

Morrison & Foerster not only paid bonuses slightly above market, the firm also restored salaries back to $160k base.

That $160k level is apparently stirring up trouble over in London. Bingham apparently never heard of localizing salaries and is paying the NY market rate for “newly qualified” lawyers in London.

Latham & Watkins, Debevoise & Plimpton, Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton and Kirkland & Ellis pay NQs £96,000, £94,250, £94,000, £92,000 and £90,000 respectively.

In contrast, magic circle NQ salaries range from £59,000 to £61,000.

Bingham only brings on one or two NQs a year, though. And besides, that salary would be worth a hell of a lot more if you got it in the firm’s Portland office (actually, they have a Hartford office, but that’s not nearly as nice a place to spend your money. Or time.)

They’re a little tight on the deferral stipend over in London, too. Herbert Smith is offering just £10,000 to incent volunteers for a six-month deferral.

And if you believe one GULC alum, people may be in no hurry to return from their deferrals.

We think he’s out of his mind and stuck in 2006.

Back in reality, major law firms have laid off

  • nine people this week (9 lawyers (all partners!) / 0 staff)
  • 110 people this month (45 / 65)
  • 246 people this year (91 / 155)
  • 14,441 people since January 2008 (5,661 lawyers, 8,780 staff)

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