Law Practice Management

February Free Fall: Major Law Firms Lay Off Another 2,000-Plus Attorneys and Staff

As the dismal economy has continued on a downward spiral this month, so has the legal industry, with February layoffs exceeding January’s by a considerable margin. January’s carnage, in which renowned law firms laid off more than 1,500 attorneys and staff at last count, has been followed by further freefall in February in which more than 2,000 attorneys and staff lost their jobs.

On a single “Bloody Thursday,” Feb. 12, law firms announced plans to ax some 800 attorneys and staff, at last report, and at least one has also imposed a pay freeze. And, in another major milestone, a top London-based international law firm, Allen & Overy, announced Feb. 19 that it would be cutting up to 450 attorneys and staff, spinning off part of its practice, imposing a pay freeze and asking remaining partners for an average of about $50,000 each in additional capital.

And today Latham & Watkins announced internally that it is laying off 190 associates and 250 staff members–more than double the number that Above the Law tipsters had warned of earlier this week.

An ongoing stream of law firm layoff news throughout the month has contributed further to the total:

Yesterday, New Jersey-based Lowenstein Sandler has just announced today that it is dismissing 53 attorneys and staff and shifting three of the 18 incoming third-year law students who had been scheduled to start work there this fall (as well as up to three of the dismissed lawyers) to lower-paid one-year public-interest jobs, according to Above the Law.

Layoffs have also been confirmed this month by, among others, Miami-based Bilzin Sumberg Baena Price & Axelrod (a “small number,” which tipsters describe as two lawyers and two staff); Dechert (10 staff attorneys, in the most recent round, following 19 lawyers earlier this month); Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps (12 lawyers and 15 staff); McDermott Will & Emery (60 lawyers and 89 staff); Neal Gerber & Eisenberg (19 lawyers and 32 staff); Nixon Peabody (20 lawyers and 36 staff); Sheppard Mullin (a total of 25 attorney layoffs, in January and February, were announced this month); and United Kingdom-based Simmons & Simmons (up to 20 associates and 49 staff).

Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney reportedly laid off between 25 and 30 staffers last week, in its second round of staff layoffs since November. It was among six firms announcing layoffs within a few days of each other; the largest number was at Day Pitney, which let 66 staff members go.

The Law Shucks layoff tracker lists more than 25 law firms in the United States and United Kingdom that have announced layoffs this month, tallying the total number of jobs lost at nearly 2,200 even before news of the Latham and Lowenstein layoffs.

Meanwhile, Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman inadvertently announced attorney layoffs last week, when a senior partner apparently discussed the firm’s situation on his cell phone in a crowded train car. Full details, however, have not yet been provided, and the firm reportedly may not actually make these layoffs until March.

Updated at 11:25 p.m. on Feb. 27 to accord with subsequent news of Latham & Watkins layoffs.

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