Law Firms

Layoffs hit furloughed staffers at 2 BigLaw firms, lawyers and staffers at another

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Updated: Layoffs are hitting workers at Baker McKenzie, Davis Wright Tremaine and Venable.

Baker McKenzie is laying off 6% of its workforce in the United States, Canada and Mexico. Those laid off include lawyers, other timekeepers and business professionals.

Davis Wright is laying off 39 staff members who had been furloughed. The staff members were in office services, legal assistance and other administrative positions.

Venable is laying off some furloughed employees, as well as some other professional staff members. The firm did not disclose numbers.

The information comes from, Bloomberg Law (here and here), Law360 (here and here), Above the Law (here and here) and Thomson Reuters Legal (here and here). Bloomberg Law was the only publication that reported the percentage of people who were laid off at Baker McKenzie.

The announcement comes as the law firms released some good news.

Baker McKenzie said it would fully restore trimmed salaries beginning in January 2021. Venable said it would increase compensation from reduced levels and bring back some furloughed employees. Davis Wright said it would restore 50% of its salary cuts. Partner distributions at Davis Wright also will be increased, and some furloughed staff members will be reinstated.

All three law firms had made cuts in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Baker McKenzie had cut pay by 15% for lawyers, timekeepers and business professionals in the United States. No one making less than $100,000 was affected, and no one’s pay was reduced below that threshold. Equity partners saw the largest impact on compensation.

Davis Wright had cut equity partner distributions, furloughed 8% of its staff, moved a small number of staff members to reduced schedules, and cut pay. The pay cuts were 15% for contract partners and top executives, 12% for associates and counsels, and 6% to 10% for staff members making at least $60,000.

Venable reportedly cut pay on a sliding-scale basis. Those making more than $400,000 took a 20% cut on all compensation, plus a 10% cut on compensation above $400,000. Other pay cuts ranged from 20% to 5%. Those making less than $60,000 didn’t see a cut in pay.

Baker McKenzie said in a statement that, as a global law firm, it had felt the impact of increased market and business disruption around the world.

“To say this was a hard decision is a massive understatement,” the firm said. “We are deeply aware of the human impact of these decisions and are treating our people fairly and with dignity. But having considered the full array of options, we are confident that this is the best path forward.”

Those who are laid off will receive “very fair” separation packages.

Jeff Gray, managing partner at Davis Wright, said in a statement the law firm’s financial performance during the pandemic exceeded expectations.

“This is the result of a fundamental shift in how we expect to operate and support our clients and lawyers going forward and not a cost-cutting measure,” he said.

Staff member layoffs were made “not knowing when, if ever, their previous work will return,” the statement said. Those who are laid off at Davis Wright will receive increased severance payments and medical premium coverage through the end of the year.

Venable said its actions would “contribute to long-term success while maintaining a prudent approach to financial management in light of ongoing uncertainty related to COVID-19.”

Updated Sept. 2 at 3:02 p.m to include information from Venable.

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