A recent article in IP Law & Business suggested that rumors of the demise of IP specialty law firms have been greatly exaggerated. According to the piece, intellectual property boutiques continue to survive, despite encroachment on their turf by general-practice firms.
This is not to say, however, that everything is peachy in IP land. The article notes that Morgan & Finnegan, one prominent IP shop, “has lost 10 partners in the past year, and its overall head count is down considerably.” (We wonder if they included Jeremy Pitcock in the partner losses.)
The firm has been shedding associates and staff, too. Earlier this week, we heard from several tipsters that Morgan & Finnegan was laying off lawyers, technical and scientific advisors, and staff.
We confirmed the news with Pat Bowers, director of administration for Morgan & Finnegan. She acknowledged the layoffs (and even had the courage to use the “L” word, which many other firms shun).
The firm believes in “the importance of communication,” explained Bowers. “It’s not like we were doing it behind closed doors.” Prior to informing the affected employees, administration sent out a firm-wide email explaining that the firm was “scrutinizing our direct and indirect expenses, and looking at our staffing needs in New York and D.C.”
The affected employees were notified of the layoffs starting on Friday of last week and ending yesterday by close of business (so if you’re at the firm and haven’t heard anything, you’re in the clear). Bowers declined to provide exact numbers, citing confidentiality concerns, but said that (1) the firm “laid off less than 7 percent of attorneys and staff,” and (2) the cuts were centered on staff, not lawyers.
More details, below the fold.
Bowers explained that the size of the firm’s general staff had not changed for the past 18 months. After examining its needs, the firm made cuts “to eliminate any redundancies, and to try to improve our internal operating efficiency.”
“We don’t see the economic slowdown improving anytime soon,” said Bowers. “So we wanted to take a proactive stance.”
Severance and health insurance coverage are being provided to the laid-off employees. Bowers described the severance as “industry-standard.”
As for why it took a few days to announce the cuts, Bowers explained that “we wanted to make sure we had all the appropriate people in the office” when we broke the news to them. Other firms, which shall remain nameless here, have laid off employees while they were out of the office, telling them they were out of a job over the phone.
Bowers is not a fan of firing over the phone. “Put yourself in the other person’s shoes,” she said. “Ask how you would like to be treated.”
Have IP Boutiques Gone Extinct? Hardly [IP Law & Business]