Layoffs, Texas

A Fish Out of Austin: Fish & Richardson Closes Austin Office

Fish Richardson logo.jpgAs a New Yorker, people often tell me that Austin is “the oasis of Texas.” I think they mean that Austin is a culturally progressive blue city in middle of a red state.
I hope they don’t mean that Austin is a great place to practice law.
On Friday, Fish & Richardson announced plans to close its Austin office. This marks the second major law firm to get out of Austin this summer. Weil Gotshal has already announced plans to close its Austin office.
The Austin Business Journal described the importance of Fish & Richardson to the local legal market:

Fish, which opened its Austin office in 2005, currently has 28 attorneys and a total staff of approximately 68 locally. A spokeswoman in the firm’s Boston headquarters confirmed the firm will close the office on Dec. 31.
According to Austin Business Journal research, Fish & Richardson is the 16th largest law firm operating in the city, ranked by number of attorneys. Fish reported firmwide revenue of $420 million in 2008. Some of the firm’s clients include Microsoft Corp., Google and Freescale Semiconductor Inc.

Are Austinites ready to make the move to “regular Texas”?

Will the office closing result in layoffs? It could depend on whether or not attorneys living in Austin want to relocate. The Texas Lawyer reports:

Some of the 25 lawyers currently working in Austin will move to other firm offices, says Thomas Melsheimer, managing principal of the firm’s 55-lawyer Dallas office. “We’ve got some immensely talented people down there that we hate to lose, but we are facing the same economic conditions that our clients are facing and other firms are facing,” Melsheimer says. “Like a lot of firms, we are bigger than we need to be for the work that is available,” he says.

But will the Austin lawyers want to move?

Melsheimer says many of the Austin lawyers would be welcomed with open arms at other Fish & Richardson offices, but he expects many to seek employment at other firms because they want to stay in Austin. “It’s hard to get people out of Austin,” he says.

I’ve been to Austin and Dallas and Houston (San Antonio is next if anybody wants to put me up). To my untrained, east coast eyes — barbecue is barbecue. Live music is better in Austin, live sports are better in the rest of Texas. How much of a cultural change is an Austin lawyer looking at if they move to a Fish & Richardson office in Dallas? Is it like moving from New York to Philadelphia, or is it like moving from New York to Pittsburgh?
Either way, we wish the attorneys at Fish & Richardson in Austin the best of luck. The office is set to close at the end of the year; hopefully that will be enough time for everybody to get their land legs.
Fish & Richardson to close Austin office by end of 2009 [Texas Lawyer]
Fish & Richardson closing Austin office [Austin Business Journal]
Earlier: Weil Gotshal Closes Its Austin Office

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