Though there are signs that things are looking up for the legal market next year, the economy remains troubled. This week the recession claimed 18 at intellectual-property boutique Brinks Hofer.

We spoke with firm president Gary Ropski, who confirmed that seven attorneys, one patent agent, and ten staff were laid off this week. [FN1] Most of these layoffs took place in the firm’s main Chicago office. The firm spoke individually with every person let go, and had a firm-wide conference call yesterday to discuss the layoffs.

“It’s the toughest part of my job,” said Ropski. This was less than 5% of the total workforce of the firm, which has 400 employees nationally.

There’s been much talk in the legal sector about problems for IP boutiques as bigger firms encroach on their turf. Earlier this year, IP firm Darby & Darby dissolved. We asked Ropski whether he was worried about the outlook for IP boutiques in today’s economy….

He told us that the firm had a strong workload in 2008 and 2009, and did not have to conduct layoffs until the end of last year, and again now. Though its clients are feeling economic pressures, Brinks Hofer is confident about its future.

“We want to make sure the firm is well-positioned for 2011, with the right resources in the right places,” said Ropski. The firm does not foresee future layoffs at this time.

For those that have been cut loose, we wish you luck. Perhaps you’re on the Brink of something greater. We hope you land on your feet.

[FN1] For those not in the IP world, patent agents are non-attorneys who have taken the patent bar exam.


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