What’s Up at Latham & Watkins?
(Morale – thanks to a ‘no layoffs’ promise.)

Latham Watkins LLP Above the Law blog.JPGHere’s a round-up of interesting items pertaining to Latham & Watkins, a favorite firm among ATL readers.
1. Latham makes the “no layoffs” pledge. Just like Milbank, Latham has promised that it won’t be laying off lawyers in response to the current economic crisis. From an LW tipster:

Last Wednesday, managing partner Bob Dell gave his State of the Firm address via videoconference. Dell went over the firm’s great financial success for 2007 (firm revenue went up a whopping 23%, far exceeding all other major firms).

He also addressed the challenges ahead for 2008. He specifically addressed the issue of layoffs. He said multiple times that he believed it would be a bad business decision to lay off associates. Latham made that mistake in 1990 and Dell said the layoffs hurt their profitability after the recession was over. Dell said “there will be no layoffs” and that it was not even on the table for discussion.

The firm is definitely slower, but things have picked up a little bit. Firm pace is around 100% [based on 1900 billables] for the first time this year for March. It’s not going to be a banner year like 2007, but I don’t think that it will be a disaster, either. Dell did note that it would be challenging and that “partners would be making a lot less money.” I thought that was a bit of candor that was welcomed (and unexpected).

Dell also stressed that the firm was diversified and well positioned to handle any coming recession, even if it deepens. He also felt that Latham was well positioned to take advantage of the post-recession period as well.

So that’s the good news. Considering how phenomenally well the firm fared last year, the partners can afford to take a hit if necessary to avoid layoffs.
More Latham news, after the jump.

2. No D.C. office retreat. Not all news out of Latham is happy. From a source in the Washington office:

We [recently] received word at our all-associates lunch that they are probably going to cancel the annual office retreat that the D.C. [office] has had for years. It’s been around as long as I’ve been here, but is a part of belt tightening for the slower year this year. This is not major news, but disappointing, and may foreshadow more changes.

The firm issued this statement, through a spokesperson:

We periodically review our expenses, as does any responsible business, particularly in a more challenging economic environment. Where sensible, we will look to curtail certain expenses, and the annual retreat seems a sensible area to do that. We look forward to this event in the future.

plant policy Latham Watkins LW City of Angels Above the Law blog.jpg3. No plants for L.A.? In Los Angeles — where Latham was founded, but NOT its headquarters, as Lathamites consistently insist (because LW is now a global firm) — the firm is getting new digs. It’s moving out of the U.S. Bank Building — “aka Library Tower, that thing that gets nuked in Independence Day, sometimes called the ‘Big White Target'” — into new quarters.
Will the new office buck the “green” trend? From an email that made the rounds:

Plants. Other Latham offices have discontinued their plant programs. Similarly, we will not permit plants in our new space. If you have purchased a plant and would like to take it home, please do so by April 30th as we will no longer have a maintenance program. If you have been paying a monthly fee, we will make sure you are no longer charged. Also, we will be giving away all plants and containers in our departments and common ar­eas. I will be sending more details about this process with the plan to have them completely out of our space by the end of April.

We’re not quite sure why Latham is so anti-plant. But for the record, their new L.A. office will be very “green,” in terms of being environmentally friendly. From a statement the firm sent ATL in response to our inquiry:

Based on feedback and further consultation, the firm is reviewing a number of options vis-à-vis these initial recommendations [about plant policy].

Latham & Watkins is committed to a very environmentally-friendly office space and the new location is expected to be LEED-certified, the nationally recognized standard for the design and construction of green buildings.

Personally we don’t have a huge problem with a “no plants” policy. When we were at a firm, we had a plant in our office, but it died from neglect (much like our social life). Biglaw life and plant life may not be terribly compatible.
Latham Leads Strong Year in L.A., Could Surpass Skadden as Top-Grossing Firm [The Recorder via Law.com]
Earlier: What’s Up at Milbank Tweed?

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