Biglaw, California, Layoffs, Partner Issues, Staff Layoffs

Nationwide Layoff Watch: Sayonara, San Diego

Some say that San Diego has the best weather in the continental United States. But it seems that the climate there might be less than hospitable for large law firms.

Last year, Baker & McKenzie closed its office in San Diego, finding the metropolis didn’t live up to its nickname of “America’s finest city.” And now we have news of another Biglaw firm shutting down its S.D. outpost.

It’s not on the scale of the massive Weil layoffs, but the closing could cause a significant number of lawyers and staff to lose their jobs. Here are the details….

The firm in question is Goodwin Procter. Some offices are so busy that associates must be in their offices by 9:30 a.m., but that doesn’t appear to be the case in San Diego. Here’s an excerpt from the firm-wide email that went out last night (reprinted in full on the next page):

After careful consideration, the Executive Committee has decided to close the firm’s San Diego office, effective September 30, 2013, the end of our fiscal year. We wanted to share with you the reasoning behind that decision and outline the steps we will be taking to implement it.

As you may recall, when we opened the office in March 2007, we envisioned that the San Diego office would be a significant source of corporate transactional work, particularly in the life sciences and biotech areas. While this was the case initially, and while these practices have continued to grow nationally at the firm, we haven’t been able to realize our initial vision for San Diego despite our best efforts.

By contrast, during the same period, we have seen steady expansion of our presence in our three other California locations – Los Angeles, San Francisco and Silicon Valley. In examining the allocation of our resources across geographies as part of our recent strategic planning process, we have concluded that our investments would be better directed to expanding our presence in those markets and growing those offices to greater scale.

Sometimes investments don’t pay off as planned; it happens. Earlier this month, for example, another firm exited Atlanta.

How many people will be affected by the office closing?

We met yesterday with the individuals who will be affected by this decision. This includes a total of 34 individuals, including six partners, 12 associates/professional track attorneys and 16 staff members. We are deeply appreciative of their efforts on behalf of the office and the firm.

We will be making relocation/alternative work arrangement offers to roughly one-third of these individuals, and those not staying with the firm will receive generous transitional assistance, including comprehensive severance packages, outplacement services and other support, based on their positions and work experience with the firm.

According to a firm spokesperson, Goodwin Procter has made relocation/alternative work arrangement offers to almost half of the attorneys involved (eight out of 18). So the firm’s claim that it wants to redeploy its resources, perhaps in the direction of other California offices, seems credible.

Still, even if the firm’s decision is understandable, it doesn’t fall under the category of happy news. Good luck to the affected employees who won’t be able to relocate or otherwise continue working for Goodwin.

The weather in San Diego is pretty perfect right now, 72 degrees and clear. But in light of all the recent layoff news, one can’t help feeling that in Biglaw, winter is coming.

(The full memorandum regarding the closing of Goodwin’s San Diego office appears on the next page.)

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