This past Sunday’s New York Times featured not just the Cincinnati IRS exposé, but also a depressing discussion about the job market. Here’s the upshot: “Unemployment is staying high despite the end of the recession because we are now in a historic transition. Because of automation, globalization, efficiency and other factors, we no longer need the share of people working that we have had in the past. With these trends moving in only one direction, it is clear that the job crisis is permanent and will not go away with better economic times.”
That’s the analysis of James B. Huntington, author of Work’s New Age: The End of Full Employment and What It Means to You (affiliate link). In the words of researcher Thomas W. Clark, another participant in the Times forum, “given the rise of the machines, human labor is worth less and less in the marketplace.”
You can see this trend playing out in the way that staff layoffs are spreading rapidly throughout large law firms. Today we have more layoff news to share….
It comes from Edwards Wildman. Here’s what we’ve heard:
- This month the firm laid off staff in several departments, including accounting, marketing, and secretarial staff.
- The total number of affected employees comes to approximately 20.
- The Boston office saw the largest number of reductions, but other offices were affected as well.
We reached out to the firm for comment. Edwards Wildman issued this statement through a spokesperson:
To meet their clients’ expectations for cost-efficient services, successful law firms today must monitor costs closely. Technology advances and related business production methods have reduced the need for as much support staff and services. It is now typical to have an assistant support four or more lawyers. When natural turnover permits us to scale back to appropriate staffing levels, we can keep costs in line without reducing our workforce. In those instances where there is low attrition, however, it becomes necessary on occasion to reduce positions to remain competitive and staffed properly. Therefore, we have made selective reductions in staff in some of our offices.
This statement is quite similar to others we’ve seen from firms that have conducted staff layoffs or offered voluntary separation to support staff. It’s by now a familiar tale, if no less sad and unfortunate for the affected individuals.
As we noted yesterday, “staff layoffs are no longer the sign of weakness that they once were.” Although Edwards Wildman may be experiencing some post-merger challenges, it’s still growing and expanding on several fronts. It has added about eight lateral partners this year so far, and it’s planning to open a new office in Istanbul that will assist clients with cross-border private equity and M&A deals.
We have additional Biglaw layoff stories in the pipeline, but they require more detail or confirmation. If you have information to share, please email us or text us (646-820-8477). We keep our sources confidential and anonymous. Thanks.
Sunday Dialogue: An Economy in Transition [New York Times]