We recently made passing reference to the staff layoffs at Heller Ehrman, which firm management claimed were made to enhance efficiency, and not due to slow business. But one of the affected employees begs to differ:
Don’t believe Heller Ehrman’s claims that the layoffs were not because of slowdowns. I was a paralegal who worked at Heller for [several] years. The past year has been the slowest in litigation we have ever experienced….
I enjoyed my job, and [found that Heller] was a great place to work. [But in] the past two years, the whole culture and the focus of the firm changed (or is in the process of changing).
Everyone’s billable rates were raised to such heights that competing for business became pretty distasteful to many of the shareholders. It’s not easy to justify $200 to $300 an hour for paralegals.
Are layoffs the flip-side of the associate pay raise coin? More after the jump.
Of course, some lawyers just leave of their own accord. From our same source:
We lost many very talented attorneys in the last couple of years. I was almost always impressed with the integrity of and work ethic displayed by the attorneys with whom I worked.
The news reports say that no attorneys were laid off, which is true, but that’s because the attorney to staff ratio had already shifted dramatically due to attrition. I was provided with a severance package but was horrified that the firm laid off mostly staff that had been there for many years and who had felt a real loyalty to the firm. I suppose they are cleaning house and it’s “out with the old and in with new.”
If staffers are being laid off, can associates be far behind?
Well, maybe not. Right now the market for young lawyers is still fairly tight. And firms that do lay off associates have to contend with that recruiting albatross for years to come, even after work has picked up again and they need associates badly.
But staff layoffs, even if they don’t foreshadow associate layoffs, are still worth watching. They serve as a “canary in the mine” of sorts, with respect to a law firm’s financial health.
Heller Says Slowdown Not Behind Layoffs [The Recorder via Law.com]
Earlier: Lawyers of the Day: The Qualcomm Gang of 19