Biglaw, Bloomberg, Layoffs, Reader Polls, Staff Layoffs

Is Biglaw About To Go Weiled?

It’s either this sad box or the poor ‘Layoff Lady.’

Are the Weil Gotshal layoffs a harbinger of a rough second-half of the year for Biglaw? Early signs are not encouraging. Since last week we’ve seen office closings, secretary firings, and the amibiguous WilmerHale goings-on. There is a palpable tension in the wake of the Weil cuts. Where do we go from here? What, if any, will be the follow-on effect of Weil’s move?

In the wake of the Weil cuts, our friend Bruce MacEwen gave an interesting interview to Bloomberg Law’s Lee Pacchia. Bruce speculated that there is possibility of up to 10% overcapacity in Biglaw, and the supply and demand curves for legal talent have permanently shifted. In Bruce’s view, Weil is “very much ahead of the curve.” Ominous tidings for associates everywhere. There’s an interesting point in the interview where Pacchia wonders whether the legal profession will ever return to a “halcyon era” where law firm partners’ immediate self-interest is minimized in favor of long-term stewardship. Bruce, channeling Clubber Lang, responds that the only thing that will return us to that golden era, if it ever existed, is more pain.

Last week we conducted a research poll asking for your take on whether the Weil layoffs signal an oncoming reprise of the Biglaw bloodbath of 2008-09 or a singular phenomenon. Let’s look at the results of our poll and some choice highlights from your responses….

A substantial majority of you are not freaking out. So that’s good. Our poll results broke down as follows:

  • 17% say that there will be widespread layoffs. A repeat of 2008-09.
  • 13% believe that the Weil layoffs are an anomaly and peer firms will not follow suit.
  • 69% predict that there will be additional Biglaw layoffs but nowhere near the scale of 2008-09.

Contrast this relatively staid viewpoint with the rancor of those of you who chose to comment. A representative sampling:

“These layoffs are needed to feed the law school hiring machine and leave many people permanently out of work. If there truly is 10% overcapacity in Biglaw, we will see many stealth layoffs – spread out over time so we do not hear about them – and some additional public layoffs. Most firms will not want to admit they are laying off people. … Half of those laid off from Biglaw will not find full time permanent legal work. You are talking about Biglaw becoming a ticket to systemic unemployment and underemployment [.]”

“This ship be sinking….”

“The Lehman bankruptcy that Weil was handling is done. They had to get rid of the bankruptcy folks…It’s just how Biglaw goes – NO LOYALTY.”

“The sooner the Ponzi scheme business model of these firms fails the better.”

We don’t want anything to fail or sink; we truly hope the pessimists are wrong. But clearly whether Biglaw layoffs will continue to spread is one of the major unresolved questions for the rest of 2013.

Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Major Cuts Come To Weil Gotshal
Nationwide Layoff Watch: Sayonara, San Diego
Nationwide Layoff Watch: Several Secretaries Sent Packing
Nationwide Layoff Watch: Layoffs? What Layoffs?

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