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Law Practice Management

March Mayhem: Law Firm Layoffs in 1 Week Total Nearly 1,500

Posted Mar 4, 2009 6:59 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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Updated: In a sign of the troubled times, law firm cuts are getting deeper and more frequent:

Late last week, Latham & Watkins made a stunning announcement that the firm is axing 190 associates and 250 staff.

On Tuesday, Orrick announced it is cutting 100 associates and 200 staff, following a much smaller group of layoffs there last fall.

And on Wednesday, the ax began to fall even faster. Six well-known law firms announced attorney and staff layoffs that brought the total of lost legal jobs, just for that one day, to more than 500.

On Thursday, over 200 more layoffs were reported at three additional law firms.

This all adds up to a total of not quite 1,500 law firm jobs eliminated in a little less than a week. And, of course, the total could well be higher if so-called stealth layoffs were made by other law firms also struggling to cope with dismal economic conditions. Although the Latham layoffs properly are included in last month's total, it appears that March mayhem is well under way.

Wednesday's carnage began with word of job eliminations at Clifford Chance (up to 115 London staff after an earlier cut of some 80 London attorneys; no word on those in the megafirm's international offices); O'Melveny & Myers (about 90 attorneys and 110 staff members); and, according to yet another ABAJournal.com post Wednesday about snowballing staff reductions, the axing of approximately 78 support positions at Shearman & Sterling and another 100 or so at Dewey & LeBeouf.

Later Wednesday, two well-known regional U.S. partnerships said they were making layoffs, too: Connecticut-based Wiggin and Dana is axing 14 attorneys, in addition to the 14 staff job cuts announced in January, according to an internal memo published by Above the Law. Meanwhile, Kansas City, Mo.-based Stinson Morrison Hecker laid off 30 staff members (but no lawyers) on Monday, reports the Kansas City Business Journal.

On Thursday, news that Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is laying off about 55 attorneys and 100 staff was soon followed by additional news of layoffs at Arent Fox and Bingham McCutchen.

And layoffs continued after this ABAJournal.com post went up; by mid-afternoon on Monday, March 9, the tally had rocketed to nearly 2,500 as five more major firms reduced almost 1,000 people from their attorney and staff rosters. (Midway through the day, a total of 731 of legal jobs had been lost on Monday alone.)

And by the end of the day on Tuesday, March 10, the total was nearing 2,700.

A list compiled by American Lawyer says Latham and Orrick set benchmarks, respectively, for making the most law firm layoffs numerically and laying off the highest percentage of law firm employees, as discussed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post. Some of the other noteworthy law firm layoffs included on the Am Law list took place well before March.

Related coverage:

ABAJournal.com: "January’s Carnage: 1,487 Law Layoffs"

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

ABAJournal.com: "Law Firm Consultant: ‘I’ve Never Seen It This Bad’"

Last updated at 5:25 p.m. on March 10 to include include updated information from subsequent ABAJournal.com post about latest law firm layoffs and new layoffs total.

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