Law Shucks, Layoffs

This Week in Layoffs: 06.13.09

Law Shucks layoffs layoff tracker.jpg[Ed. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks. Law Shucks has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.]
That’s it? We’re looking for that one perfect week of no layoffs and we lose it to a Tennessee firm and two UK firms? So much for midsize firms being a safe harbor. The dream of a week without layoffs lives on. Instead, we’ll catch up on the regular activity. The trend of initial jobless claims declining continues, with new applications down to January levels. Same old song and dance, though, as total unemployment continues to climb, setting a record for the 19th straight week.

Businesses are slowing staff reductions as signs emerge that the worst recession in at least five decades may end in the second half of 2009. Still, economists in a Bloomberg News survey predicted the unemployment rate will climb to 10 percent by year-end and restrain consumer spending, muting any recovery.

That’s pretty much in line with the trend in the law-firm sector, although we might have our first green shoots. After the jump.

Back in March, we reported that every major Chicago law firm had laid people off, other than Locke Lord, which promptly laid people off a week later, and Winston & Strawn, which has not had any reported layoffs but we’ve been keeping an eye on them since January due to reports of stealth layoffs. Now things might be looking up. The National Law Journal reports that Skadden, Cozen O’Connor, and Nixon Peabody are all hiring in Chicago. Skadden has laid off 80 staff attorneys but no associates.

Skadden, which has its third-largest U.S. office in Chicago, has flexibility in the number of additional lawyers it could post in the new office, said [Skadden real-estate partner Marian] Wexler, who declined to specify how many new attorneys might be coming on board. In the eight floors that Skadden will occupy in the new building, the firm also has a new cafeteria from which it will not only serve meals, but also provide food for meetings, allowing it to reduce catering costs, she said.

So there’s no actual confirmation that Skadden is hiring, just that they’ve taken more space. Cozen has laid off 61 staff, and will be moving into larger space next April (one of Skadden’s vacated floors, as it turns out). Tia Ghattas, the firm’s managing partner in Chicago says the firm is “actively recruiting,” and in particular is looking for corporate lawyers and commercial litigators who “already have books of business.” Who isn’t? And that’s also not likely to mean they’re interested in the associates who have been affected by recent events. Finally, the piece turns to Nixon Peabody. There might actually be a real sign of life there:

Nixon Peabody earlier this month moved into a new office building at 300 South Riverside Plaza, nearly doubling its Chicago space to 32,676 square feet. The firm has 22 lawyers there now and wants to add 15 to 20, said Stephen Rudisill, who leads the office. The firm opened its doors in the city in 2007 with a group of intellectual property lawyers. “Chicago is a major market in the country so [the firm management would] like to add some of the other practices here,” Rudisill said.

While this series focuses on law firm layoffs, the hardest-hit legal employer this week were the South Florida County Clerks’ offices. At least 259 people have been laid off from Broward, Miami-Dade, and Palm Beach counties. All in all, this was a much-appreciated quiet week in law firm layoffs. On Law Shucks, we wrap up the rest of the firms’ cost-control practices, including lots more salary cuts and a whopper of a start date deferral. We also have the updated numbers for the week, month, and year.

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