More law firm layoffs are likely, consultants say

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The layoffs of 45 lawyers at Reed Smith last week highlight a problem faced by many law firms: They can’t keep their lawyers busy with work.

Several consultants who spoke with the Am Law Daily (sub. req.) said law firms are dealing with overcapacity. Consultants said the Reed Smith layoffs got noticed because so many lawyers were laid off at once, but other firms have been trimming lawyers in smaller numbers.

Those who believe the law-firm layoffs will continue include Peter Zeughauser of the Zeughauser Group and Eric Seeger of Altman Weil.

Seeger points to a 2015 survey by Altman Weil in which 65 percent of the respondents said equity partners weren’t busy enough, and 79 percent said nonequity partners were insufficiently busy.

Zeughauser told the Am Law Daily that, for the last 18 months, law firms have been laying off lawyers, counseling partners to leave and closing entire offices. “I do expect it to continue,” he said.

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