Biglaw, Crowell & Moring, Layoffs, Secretaries / Administrative Assistants, Severance, Staff Layoffs

Nationwide Layoff Watch: Secretarial Separations Softened By Substantial Severance

We have previously discussed the advantages of voluntary buyouts over layoffs, especially stealth layoffs. Voluntary retirement programs allow employees to self-select, so that employees who are well-situated to enter unemployment can opt in, while employees who need their jobs badly can keep working.

Imagine you’re a legal secretary at one firm who’s married to a high-earning partner at a different firm. You work to keep yourself busy, especially since your kids are all grown, but you don’t need your job that badly. You might take a buyout package and retire a few years early so that one of your fellow secretaries, a single mother with two young kids, can put food on the table.

Voluntary programs are so much better than layoffs — which is why we were happy to hear that rumors of secretarial layoffs at one firm actually turned out to refer to a buyout program. A program with rather generous terms, in fact….

We recently heard a rumor of about 25 secretaries getting laid off from Crowell & Moring. It turns out that these secretaries actually weren’t laid off but instead took a (very generous) buyout package. A firm spokesperson explained the situation to us:

On May 6, Crowell & Moring announced that it would introduce a new business services model for administrative support that will allow us to make better use of our technology, enhance teamwork, and afford us greater flexibility. The new model includes a highly sophisticated secretarial team concept in the D.C. office based on the functional needs of client service and technical skills. This new approach means that we require fewer secretaries overall, particularly in Washington. We offered voluntary departures to our professional secretaries whereby those who elected to resign from the firm would receive six months of his or her annual salary. Firmwide, 29 of our secretaries opted to choose this package. We do not have plans for additional departures.

A six-month severance package is one of the most generous ones we’ve heard of. No wonder almost 30 secretaries accepted the opportunity.

If a firm needs to reduce its secretarial ranks — and if it hasn’t done so already, it probably does, given technological advances and how attorneys work today — a voluntary retirement program is the way to go. Kudos to Crowell for taking the kinder, gentler approach.

Has your firm provided incentives for anyone — staffers, associates, or partners — to leave voluntarily? Or is it instead taking the less honorable path of stealth layoffs? Let us know by email or by text message (646-820-8477). Thanks.

Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Voluntary Separations at Two Major Law Firms
A Mysterious Partner Departure — Plus Stealth Layoffs? — at Cleary Gottlieb

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