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Clifford Firm Lays Off 24 NYC Attorneys, Defers Start Date for Incoming ‘09 Class

Posted Mar 26, 2009 1:18 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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A London-based megafirm has made a second round of associate layoffs in its New York office, and it is pushing back the start date for its incoming class of associates.

Because of a work slowdown, Clifford Chance has cut 24 transactional associates in New York City, the firm announces in a press release (PDF) today.

Although these associates are held in high regard by the firm, continued sluggishness in the market requires the layoffs, the release states. "The firm also anticipates laying off business services personnel in New York following a review that is expected to be completed shortly."

The firm announced in October that it was laying off 20 associates in its New York and Washington, D.C., offices because of economic conditions and confirmed this month that it then laid off 35 staff in December in those same two offices.

Early this month, Clifford Chance announced expected cuts of some 100 staff in its London heaquarters, following news a month earlier that the firm would be reducing its partner ranks and seeking more capital from remaining partners. (The plan to cut partners was recently approved; exactly how many partners will be eliminated from the firm's roster isn't known.)

Clifford Chance is also pushing back start dates for its incoming class of first-year associates, both in the U.S. and in London, according to the release and the Lawyer.

Going beyond the release, which simply says that the 50-associate first-year class (in the U.S. only) will have their start dates deferred until January 2010 (for 20 first-years) and October of 2010 (for the remaining 30), and will be paid an undescribed stipend, Above the Law reports additional details, apparently based on a combination of unconfirmed information from tipsters and facts provided by the firm.

It says volunteers to start in October are being sought by the firm and a lottery will be conducted if not enough volunteers step up. The stipend for those who defer until January 2010, the law blog says, will be $10,000. Those who start in October 2010 will get $5,000 per month, if they find public interest work in the meantime, and $3,335 per month if they do not.

According to the Lawyer, a similar deferral program is being pursued for some 130 incoming associates abroad. The firm is hoping that about 15 percent will volunteer to defer beginning work at Clifford Chance until October 2010, and is offering a stipend to those who do so.

"Clifford Chance is offering a basic bursary of 8,000 pounds, with an additional payment of up to 3,000 pounds for trainees who decide to pursue specific pro bono projects or, alternatively, undertake further legal or language studies," the legal publication writes.

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