Law Practice Management

Brinks Hofer Cuts 7 Lawyers & 19 Staff, May Reduce Associate Pay Next Year

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As other law firms made layoffs, deferred start dates for new associates and cut attorney pay in response to the difficult new legal economy of the past year or so, Brinks Hofer Gilson & Lione stayed the course.

But that changed today, when the Chicago-based intellectual property firm announced layoffs of about six percent of its total workforce in anticipation of a lackluster 2010, president Gary Ropski tells the ABA Journal in a telephone interview.

In addition to cutting seven lawyers and 19 staff, Brinks Hofer may also reduce associate pay next year, Ropski says. “We are working on our salaries for next year for associates, and they will be most certainly revised to what are current market levels.” The bonus program this year has not been affected, he notes.

The firm, which has over 170 attorneys and scientific advisors, spoke individually with everyone who was let go. It then videoconferenced with branch offices to announce the layoffs, rather than just sending out an e-mail, Ropski says.

“This is the first that we have done, the first of any kind of reductions or changes in start dates and the like. We were not part of any of the activity that has been going on since October of 2008,” he tells the ABA Journal, describing the layoffs as difficult but necessary to the firm’s continued economic well-being.

“Our intention is to do this now and not to have to take similar actions like this in the foreseeable future,” he states, saying that the firm made the layoffs “with great regret” after delaying them for as long as possible.

Although intellectual property litigation remains a strong practice area, clients tend to hold back on spending related to patents, trademarks and copyrights in a difficult economy, he points out. Plus, even concerning litigation, clients tend to be more selective about the cases they want to pursue and more cautious about costs, he says.

“We are looking at what’s going to happen in 2010 and hearing that our clients are uncertain about what 2010 will do for them, and so we’re taking steps to make sure that we’re prepared with our staff,” Ropski says, adding:

“The firm is in very good, solid financial condition. This is not a reflection on 2009. This is a realistic projection for 2010.”

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