2009's Toll: More Than 10,000 Law Firm Layoffs and Lower Pay Trend

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The pace of law firm layoffs may be slowing, but the numbers continue to grow, hitting more than 10,000 this month for the year of 2009 alone.

At the end of last week, 3,881 lawyers and 6,282 staffers had been laid off since the beginning of the year by major U.S. law firms, the blog Law Shucks reported.

While layoffs are slowing, another trend appears to be gaining steam. Several law firms are cutting associate pay, including Reed Smith, DLA Piper, Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal, Nixon Peabody and Seyfarth Shaw.

Lower pay for lawyers could be a lasting effect of the recession, according to recruiter Jerome Kowalski of Kowalski & Associates. “These meganumbers in terms of compensation are just going to disappear,” he told the Legal Intelligencer last week.

The good news is the slower pace of layoffs. Last week Law Shucks was prepared to proclaim the first week had passed since the end of 2008 without any U.S. law firm layoffs—until Ropes & Gray confirmed it is letting go a group of associates estimated by legal tabloids to be about 30 in number. The firm said the lawyers were fired as part of the review process rather than economic reasons, but Law Shucks includes the number in its layoff tally.

As of last week, by Law Shucks’ count, more than 338 lawyers, 787 staffers had been let go in May alone, catching up with April layoffs. The numbers are relatively small compared to March, when nearly 3,500 lawyers and staffers were laid off from law firms.

Law firms laying off lawyers this month included:

DLA Piper, cutting 24 lawyers and 100 staffers in the United Kingdom.

Hunton & Williams, cutting 23 lawyers and 64 staffers.

Fish & Richardson, cutting 35 lawyers and 85 staffers.

Day Pitney, cutting 20 lawyers.

Snell & Wilmer, cutting 30 to 40 staffers.

Thompson & Knight, cutting 17 lawyers and 25 staffers.

Fenwick & West, cutting 15 lawyers and seven staffers.

Fennemore Craig, laying off 10 staffers.

Seyfarth Shaw, cutting a total of 50 lawyers and staff.

Milbank Tweed Hadley & McCloy, cutting 49 associates and 40 staffers.

Eckert Seamans Cherin & Mellott, cutting 119 temporary lawyers.

The 10,000 layoff milestone for lawyers and legal staffers has been hit twice this year.

In April, Law Shucks reported that more than 10,000 lawyers and legal staffers had been laid off from major law firms in the last 15 months. Then, on May 15 the blog said the 10K mark had been hit in a shorter time period—in the year 2009 alone.

Related coverage: “After Early March Mayhem, Law Firm Layoffs Slow: Month’s Total Nears 3,500” “February Free Fall: Major Law Firms Lay Off Another 2,000-Plus Attorneys and Staff” “January’s Carnage: 1,487 Law Layoffs”

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