Law firm layoffs are back (assuming they ever left). This is not a complete shock, since we heard predictions of them in January, including predictions of partner layoffs.

Many of these layoffs are stealth layoffs — so some firms might argue that they’re not even layoffs, just performance-based dismissals made in the ordinary course of business. It’s hard for us to report on these unless we receive enough tips. If we hear from a single lawyer or staffer who has been asked to leave, that could be a performance-based dismissal; if we hear from multiple lawyers or staffers at the same firm, that starts to look more like layoffs. If you have layoff information you’d like to share, please email us or text us (646-820-8477).

Now, on to the layoffs at Patton Boggs, D.C.-based law firm and lobbying powerhouse. These reductions were too large to fly under the radar….

Please note the UPDATES below regarding the number of affected employees.

The Patton Boggs layoffs were reported last night by Thomson Reuters (via Morning Docket):

The Washington, D.C., law firm Patton Boggs has laid off an unknown number of lawyers and administrative staff, according to two sources inside the firm with direct knowledge of the matter and two sources outside the firm.

The firm, which has more than 550 attorneys in nine offices worldwide, is known best for its lobbying and public policy work in Washington and is expected to have a firm-wide meeting early on Friday to discuss its current situation, according to a Patton Boggs partner.

If we receive additional information after any such meeting, we will add it as an update to this post.

“I think the firm is just right-sizing,” said one partner, who noted he wasn’t worried about the firm’s financial health.

The partner said the firm’s management had briefed him about layoffs in the litigation department, but added that they could affect other areas of the business as well. They involved the New Jersey, New York and Washington offices and were based on the productivity of the lawyers, he said.

Ah yes, “right-sizing.” Because no partner is ever going to say, “I’m terrified that my firm is about to implode, and I’m actively talking to recruiters.” (Well, we heard such sentiments from partners in the dying days of Dewey & LeBoeuf, but that was the exception rather than the rule.)

A firm spokesperson told Reuters that Patton Boggs had “nothing formal to announce at this time.” Reuters also didn’t have information about how many lawyers and staffers were affected by the cuts.

We heard about the Patton Boggs layoffs from multiples sources of our own here at ATL. One source described them to us as “pretty significant layoffs, at least in its D.C. office, that went from partners down to staff.” Said a second: “Right now the total seems to be 120: 20 partners, 100 other (counsel, associates, staff). No word on severance yet.”

If true, 120 has to be one of the largest layoffs we’ve seen since the dark days of 2009. We ran the figure of 120 past Patton Boggs’s spokesman; he did not respond.

UPDATE (3:35 PM): According to a source who was on the conference call, the number of affected individuals came to just shy of 100: 20 partners, 27 non-partner lawyers, and 50 staff. Even if that’s less than initial reports suggested, 97 is still a big number for layoffs.

UPDATE (5:50 PM): Managing partner Edward Newberry told the Blog of Legal Times that the firm laid off 30 lawyers and 35 other employees, and in addition told 18 partners that “performance here isn’t satisfactory.” That would take the number of affected individuals to 83. Somewhat strangely, however, Newberry insisted that the 18 partners weren’t given pink slips, just told that their performance is unsatisfactory. You can read more over at The BLT, which notes that the firm’s gross revenues, revenue per lawyer, and profits per partner all fell in 2012. “Revenue per lawyer and profits per partner fell 5.1 percent to $655,000 and a whopping 14.9 percent to $736,000, respectively.”

If you have information about law firm layoffs, whether at Patton Boggs or any other law firm, please drop us a line. We aim to cover this important topic quite closely, but we can’t do it without the help of our readers. Thanks.

D.C. law firm Patton Boggs lays off lawyers, sources say [Thomson Reuters News & Insight]
Patton Boggs is reportedly laying off lawyers and staffers [ABA Journal]

Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Staff Stricken at Stroock
Pink Slips Are Coming To A Firm Near You!
Nationwide Layoff Watch: Partners in Peril


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