Atlanta Firm Cuts 6 Incoming Associates; Nixes Summer Program to Save Jobs

Incoming associates at the Atlanta midsize law firm Morris, Manning & Martin got the bad news last night: Their jobs are gone.

The firm rescinded offers to six incoming associates and canceled its summer program, which affects nine law students.

In an e-mail interview with the ABA Journal, Managing Partner Robert E. Saudek said work levels don’t justify bringing in a fresh class of associates.

“We believe that our first goal should be to retain jobs for the associates who are already working for us,” Saudek says.

Because of the slowdown in transactional work, the firm has already transferred associates from its real estate and corporate departments to litigation. But that strategic shift wasn’t enough to justify bringing in a new class. Indeed, the firm has already laid off four lawyers this year.

“If and when transactional work picks up we will contact our 3L offerees to see if they are still available to join the firm—that could be in September or it could be next year,” Saudek says.

While Saudek says he hoped the notice would keep offerees from signing leases and give them a chance to find other work, the blog Above the Law quoted one 3L who complained the notice was late. “It’s as if the firm waited just long enough to rob us of all our opportunities,” ATL quotes the tipster as saying. Saudek denies a claim on ATL that the 3Ls were informed by voicemail. Any voicemail messages were left with requests to call the partner in charge of recruiting, who then informed them of the firm’s decision, he says.

Incoming associates will get to keep or will be paid the regular $5,000 starting bonus they’d been promised.

Asked whether more layoffs are planned, Saudek said not at this time.

“If the economy continues to decline it is of course possible that layoffs could be made at some point in the future—i.e. no law firm can be totally certain that layoffs will never again be made—but none are planned or expected in the foreseeable future,” he says.

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