Law Shucks

This Week in Layoffs: 03.28.10

Ed. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks, which has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.

In February, unemployment rose in 27 states and declined in just six. We already knew the unemployment rate was steady at 9.7%, but as we’ve said any number of times, that number is a far cry from the calculation of what most people would really consider unemployment. Its value is really just in indicating the trends.

Most relevant to our readers, New York was steady at 8.8% and California at 12.5%. Or pick your own states, in this nifty WSJ tool.

The unemployment numbers may not give much cause for optimism, but excitement abounds that the S&P 500 had its fourth-straight weekly winning session – the longest such streak since August – and that is being viewed as a possible indicator that the recession is ending.

“Investors are realizing that the U.S. expansion is quite solid,” said David Kelly, who helps oversee $445 billion as chief market strategist for JPMorgan Funds in New York. “It will probably pick up pace rather than slow down from here. That’s the main thing behind this stock rally.”

If that doesn’t convince you, maybe the return of helicopter commuting will.

Law firms aren’t the only place where pay is being cut; overall US personal income from wages, dividends, rent, retirement plans and government benefits declined 1.7% last year, unadjusted for inflation.

The rest of the week’s law-firm news, after the jump.

As usual, we start with layoffs (when there are any). And once again, the one-firm-per-week rule holds up. This time it was Ruden McClosky cutting 20 staff in Florida. Other than the week ending March 12 (when three firms laid people off), and the week ending February 20 (two firms), in every week there has been a layoff reported, it was at only one firm – six times in total. In comparison, there have been no law-firm layoffs reported in four weeks this year, most recently last week.

While the pace of layoffs has slowed, we still don’t understand all the factors, but business professors Paul Oyer of Stanford and Scott Schaefer of the University of Utah have been studying the matter for a forthcoming paper. Oyer presented some of the findings at a conference at Georgetown this week, but most surprising was this (emphasis added):

Once controls for …firm and city are introduced, there is no relationship between the quality of law school and layoff probabilities, which contradicts the basic version of the assortive matching model we described. However, there is a large (both economically and statistically) effect from the interaction of recent graduation and graduating from a Top 10 school. This means that, relative to other new graduates and other graduates of Top 10 schools, new graduates of Top 10 school are more likely to be laid off. This does not fi…t any of our hypotheses. We can only speculate as to what causes this relationship –perhaps fi…rms realize that recent Top 10 graduates are more likely to leave (as we saw above) and think less is to be lost by laying them off.

Law Shucks has a draft of the paper with all sorts of interesting information.

We also have Hiring Partner’s practical advice on how to avoid layoffs, including a reminder that your mother’s advice from long ago is still important after you start working.

If it’s any comfort, there was also a slight correlation between going to a better school and voluntary departures; not surprisingly, they appear to have more options.

Or be a UC Irvine Anteater – 100% of the school’s inaugural class has a job lined up.

Better yet, just be good looking. Maybe that’s why Schulte pushed back access to SeamlessWeb to 8:30?

We actually thought layoffs would have made people appreciate their jobs a little more, and a little more aware of their jobs’ evanescence. Of course, it’s possible that a firm cut exactly the right number of people so as to keep the remainder fully occupied. But pretty much anyone with an ounce of sense knows that most firms cut as many as they could get away with and that the necessary result of that would be that the fewer people remaining would have to do more work. Not so for one Davis Wright Tremaine lawyer, who survived a round of layoffs only to get fired for the problems that increased work created. She claimed the extra work and requirement that she support an additional, difficult lawyer caused her to suffer panic attacks.

She’s not the only one suing, either. Much like Jack Donaghy and the previously underserved market of porn for women, men are increasingly venturing into sexual-harassment litigation. As plaintiffs. According to the WSJ, men accounted for 16.4% of such claims in 2009, up from 15.4% in 2006. Turns out that’s attributable to the recession, too:

The spike in male sexual harassment claims coincides with a recession that has hit men harder than women. From September 2008 to January 2010, 4.4 million men lost their jobs compared with 2.3 million women, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics figures. As the economic downturn took hold in 2008, sexual harassment filings by men and women jumped by 10.8% to 13,920 claims. Employment lawyers say that when jobs are harder to obtain, many forms of litigation, especially discrimination, increase.

In the past, victims of harassment—especially men—might have “voted with their feet,” and found new jobs rather than turning to the legal system, says Greg Grant, an attorney with Shulman Rogers in Washington, D.C. “When they can’t get other jobs and they still have to pay the bills and support families,” they have to either live with the harassment or risk the potential stigma of speaking out, says Mr. Grant. And sexual harassment experts say the numbers are still under-reported because of the stigma associated with men who are sexually harassed.

Still, there was good news this week, too. Paul Hastings paid bonuses at Cravath scale (sorry, Atlanta). Kirkland and Simpson ’10 grads will have the pleasure of starting work in the same calendar year in which they graduate. Thousands of California state attorneys and administrative law judges will return from furloughs.

And in some quarters (particularly those who have already borrowed), it may be viewed as good news that the Supreme Court ruled in favor of a debtor who used bankruptcy to restructure his student loans. If you believe the loan companies, that just means future borrowers will pay with higher interest rates to cover the lenders’ increased risk from the dischargeability of the debt.

In the conclusion of the article on Law Shucks, we have the running layoff tallies for the week, month, and year. (And keep an eye out this week for the monthly layoff roundup)

(hidden for your protection)

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