Stealth Layoff Watch: Davis Polk & Wardwell Bring Layoffs into the Vault 5

Davis Polk Wardwell DPW Above the Law blog.jpgLast week, we mentioned that it doesn’t look like top Manhattan firms are immune to the layoff bug. Today, we can report some of the things that have been happening at Davis Polk & Wardwell over the past few months.

Stealth layoffs started happening at DPW in December. Corporate associates (notably, associates in Capital Markets, Credit, and M&A) were laid off the way it used to work in Biglaw. Laid off associates were told that their performance was not up to standards and given three months “notice” to find a new job.

That will put people out on the street by the end of this month, unless they have already secured a job by then. How do you think that is going in this market? This tipster neatly summarizes some details we’ve received over the past couple of months:

[T]he people who got hit by the (stealth) layoffs have to work their a**off for the three months, i.e. they bill almost regular hours…. nobody knows how many people will have to leave (at DPW “we” don’t talk about things like that…) but it’s at least a dozen or more in the corporate department alone.

We believe that 20 – 30 attorneys have been laid off from DPW in this manner since December, and we believe that those people only account for New York City cuts.

Remember, DPW suffered a significant drop in profits per partner. AmLaw reported that the firm’s PPP was down 17% in 2008.

The firm responds and tipsters weigh in after the jump.

A Davis Polk spokesperson offered this statement to Above the Law:

As is always the case, any associates leaving the firm are doing so for a variety of reasons: including to pursue other opportunities, or as a result of our regular review process. For obvious reasons, including the interest of any departing associate, we simply do not comment on the details of any departures.

But some tipsters question the voluntary nature of any departure from DPW in this market. One tipster (who verifies his/her authenticity by reporting on the lovely carrot ginger bisque served in the DPW cafeteria today), puts it this way:

The layoffs hit the laterals harder than the homegrown, but it seems as if nobody is safe. Attorney count at DPW once was over 830 (Wikipedia for last year it’s 819). Now it’s about 800. In [these] times nobody leaves voluntarily… Most people have an end date March 31, but it looks like DPW will stagger this in order to make the departures more friendly.

The severance/notice information is still somewhat up in the air, while most of our tipsters report the general March, 31st end date with no severance, we’ve heard more recent reports of a more generous package. If you have specific DPW severance stories, send them to

Earlier: Profits Per Partner Down At Skadden, S&C, and DPW

Prior ATL coverage of law firm layoffs

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