On yesterday’s post about layoffs at a major international law firm, one of my favorite commenters, “Successful Troll,” took note of our stock photo for such stories: “I feel sorry for the pretty blond woman in the picture. It seems she keeps going from firm to firm being laid off — probably 20 times already this year.”

It was funny, but also depressing. How much longer can layoffs, especially staff layoffs and “stealth” layoffs of lawyers, go on? Who is left to be laid off? Where are laid-off employees of law firms supposed to look for new jobs, in an environment in which it seems that all firms, including some very elite ones, are cutting headcount?

For now, these questions remain unanswered. Today we have more layoff news for you….

Earlier this month, Akin Gump reduced the ranks of its staff. Here is what we’ve heard:

  • Approximately 20 legal secretaries have been laid off across at least three different offices.
  • At least six were in New York, at least six were in D.C., and at least four were in Los Angeles.
  • In addition to the secretarial layoffs, an unspecified number of additional support staffers have been laid off as well.

One of our Akin sources reported:

Not performance-based; some old stalwarts. Everyone was very upset. Also: people leaving for other reasons are not replaced — so lots of empty cubicles and bays.

We reached to the firm for comment, which issued this statement through a spokesperson:

Periodically, Akin Gump undertakes reviews of its non-attorney staffing levels to ensure that the size of our workforce aligns with what is needed in order to efficiently serve our clients. Like many firms, we have found that technological innovations and improved workplace efficiencies have created a diminished need for secretarial support. As a result, we have made changes to our staffing levels that reflect this current environment and will allow us to continue to deliver excellent service to our clients.

One can see why Akin might want to run a tighter ship. In 2012, according to the American Lawyer, revenue per lawyer fell by 1.5 percent and profits per partner fell by 8.6 percent. What the firm can cut in expenses will improve the bottom line.

At the same time, staff layoffs are no longer the sign of weakness that they once were. As we’ve reported repeatedly, many leading law firms — including Sullivan & Cromwell, Cleary Gottlieb, and Latham & Watkins — have reduced the ranks of support staff to improve efficiency. Even if you’re an extremely profitable business — despite the drop, Akin’s PPP hit a still-robust $1.5 million in 2012 — why would you want to leave money on the table?

Not surprisingly, we’re working on a few more Biglaw layoff stories. If you have information to share, please email us or text us (646-820-8477). We keep our sources confidential and anonymous. Thanks.

Akin Gump Shows Modest Revenue Gain, Sharp Partner Profit Drop in 2012 [The BLT: The Blog of Legal Times]


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