Layoffs, Secretaries / Administrative Assistants, Staff Layoffs

Dechert Ices 72 Staff Positions

Dechert logo.JPGWe started getting reports this morning that Dechert let go a number of secretaries and legal assistants. But the numbers from our tipsters were low, very low. The Legal Intelligencer just reported that Dechert has in fact laid off an amazing 72 staffers.

A firm spokeswoman confirmed that Dechert has laid off 72 administrative staff across its U.S. offices. She wouldn’t get into details about which positions or how many in each office, but said the cuts were basically proportionate across the firm’s 11 U.S. offices.

The 72 administrative positions account for about 12.6 percent of the firms 570 U.S. staff members. Dechert has around 1,045 attorneys firmwide and the spokeswoman said there are no plans to cut any more staff or any attorneys based on what they know at this time.

An attorney tipster moves straight to the problem associates at Dechert are all worried about:

[I]t’s not like we can have less secretaries unless there are less lawyers…

Dechert has come to the layoff buffet early and often. In October, there was a lot of contention about how many attorneys Dechert has been stealthily getting rid of. At least the staff layoffs are being properly announced.

But then again, Dechert staff also got to feel a little bit of that “Dechert style” on their way out the door. More after the jump.

Amazingly, Dechert still claims all is well:

According the spokeswoman, the firm’s attorney headcount is about steady compared to this time last year. She confirmed that it is still the firm’s position that it may see declines in some of its key financial indicators at the end of 2008, but would come out better than most firms.

Anybody else want to stipulate that Dechert will “come out better than most firms?” What if we controlled for “firms that need to lay off 72 or more people,” would that increase Dechert’s chances of being “better?”

Attorneys started to find out that their secretaries had been axed this morning. Not through formal firm-wide communication, but through frantic calls from laid off colleagues.

Nice way to start a morning.

Those tipsters report that the staff was given no notice before they were fired, and a five-week severance package. As one tipster put it:

They did it in their typical Dechert way – the secretaries just disappear and nobody gives anyone any explanation. None of the attorneys even knew their secretaries were being fired. Morale is really low right now. Management is so underhanded and it makes everyone feel insecure.

In fact, Dechert wouldn’t even give the departing staff the dignity of tying the layoffs to the financial crisis. The Intelligencer reports:

She wouldn’t say specifically whether the cuts were economic or performance based. She said only that the firm made cuts in order to “operate more efficiently and address the overcapacity we have” that she attributed to an increase in productivity that had led to those hires. Dechert has had the overcapacity for a while, she said, but now needs to look carefully at all facets of its management as it moves into 2009.

Read the full Intelligence report here (subscription). Good luck (former) Dechert employees. Good luck current Dechert employees. When the market turns around, you know what to do.

Dechert Lays Off 72 Staff in U.S [The Legal Intelligencer] (subscription).

Earlier: Update: Dechert CEO Winokur Indirectly Responds to ATL

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