This shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone, but the National Law Journal reports that partners are successfully hanging onto their jobs despite this recession.
Associates and “other attorneys” are not:
Law firms since 2005 had increased the number of “other” attorneys — a category comprising counsel, of counsel, senior counsel and staff attorneys — to help handle boom-time business.
But in 2009, they cut about 10% of those attorneys, for a loss of 1,113 lawyers. By comparison, NLJ 250 firms shed 8.7% of associates in 2009. This year, 46 “other” attorneys worked at the average NLJ 250 firm, compared to 50 the year before.
Yeah, it is not a good time to be an expensive senior counsel or of counsel that doesn’t bring in business. On the bright side, at least senior attorneys and counsel have a career track record they can market if they have been laid off.
Staff attorneys cannot say the same thing. Their troubles have been well documented. Staff attorney programs getting pinched because of the recession generally. And the increased reliance on outsourcing is a double whammy to staff attorney job security.
But after the jump, the NLJ reports that partners appear to be safe.
Associates and counsel might be hurting, but partners are holding up pretty well.
Partners fared better in 2009. This year, NLJ 250 firms had 0.9% more partners, a number that may well be little comfort to attorneys in the other categories, but one that nevertheless represents a marked decline in growth. …
That partner numbers did not decrease is evidence that law firms sought to protect their biggest moneymakers in the downturn, Bower said.
Well, of course firms sought to protect their biggest rainmakers. But that fact doesn’t seem to tell the full story. Are all the partners rainmakers? If so, then why is there a need to cut these other categories of attorneys? If not, then why are those — non-rainmaking partners — being protected?
Altman Weil weighed in with this opinion:
“When you’ve got overcapacity, the first thing you get rid of are these extraneous groups,” said Ward Bower, a consultant with Altman Weil. He said that as business wanes, counsel and staff attorneys become less profitable, and, therefore, more expendable.
That makes a lot of sense. But is there a point where partners themselves become less profitable, and therefore more expendable? Hopefully the economy will recover before we have to answer that question.
For NLJ 250 firms, weak partner growth, while ‘others’ disappear [National Law Journal]