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.
We’ll actually be hitting a week and a half in this roundup, going back to August 1. As we’ve been saying for a while, September is not likely to be as tranquil as August was (3 layoffs, 126 people in total), and the layoffs have already started. Eleven days in, and twice as many firms have laid off almost twice as many people.
Let’s step back and start with the big picture.
The really bad news came just before the Labor Day weekend, as unemployment hit 9.7%, a 26-year high. If you really want to find a silver lining, the net job loss for August was less horrible than expected, coming in at 216,000 jobs lost for the month. The decrease in total unemployment in July is now just a blip on a 16 out of 17 month streak of worsening employment numbers. It’s not even like the improvement in July was a result of actual new jobs, either — it came from people becoming so disaffected that they stop looking for jobs entirely, which takes them off the rolls of the unemployed. Hurray for government math!
Coincidentally, BLS reported 100 jobs lost in the legal sector for the month, which is right in line with the tracker (although they’re measuring two entirely different things).
Overall, 6.9 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of 2008 — which, coincidentally, is also the beginning of the Law Shucks layoff tracker (we count from Cadwalader’s first round). Major firms account for just over 13,000 of those.
So what has been going on so far this month? After the jump, we analyze the looming surge.
Right off the bat, Quarles & Brady, a Milwaukee firm, stealthed a number of attorneys. The memo is an amusing rehash of every cliché used by a firm unwilling to admit its own troubles. Cooley Godward has also gone the stealth route, laying off about 20 lawyers over the past month.
Kirkland & Ellis had rolling stealth layoffs, totalling approximately 50, out of New York (20), San Francisco (10), Chicago (12), and more in Washington DC and Palo Alto. Similarly, Winston & Strawn also reportedly shed lawyers on the down low during August.
Sonnenschein, which has let go approximately 35 lawyers, of whom 24 or so are associates, was at least somewhat forthcoming (and wasn’t so tacky as to try to blame it on performance reviews or voluntary resignations — as if anyone would be so stupid these days, a la Quarles & Brady.)
We’re not even sure what to do with Bryan Cave’s go-away offer. Fired before they started? At least the "severance" isn’t too bad — $70,000.
The big bomb for the month came out of London, where Eversheds announced it was looking to lay off 22 lawyers in its real-estate practice and an additional 95 secretaries. That’s the largest layoff in over two months, going back to another UK firm, DLA Piper’s layoff of 121 in July.
Hold on to your hats, folks, we’re expecting another rough patch before things improve.
N.B. We missed a few weeks for vacation, but all of the law firm layoff activity for August is rounded up in the monthly piece.