When times are tough for law firms, others suffer too. If a firm as prestigious and profitable as Weil Gotshal is conducting open and notorious layoffs, and rival firms are conducting stealth layoffs, rest assured that other creatures in the Biglaw ecosystem — technology vendors, legal recruiters, Mercedes dealers — are feeling pain.
Take media outlets that cover law firms. American Lawyer Media recently cut at least 35 positions from its editorial and production staffs, amounting to about 7 percent of headcount within those two groups. Kevin Michielsen, chief operating officer of ALM, said the layoffs resulted from the company’s shift to being a “digital-first” operation, not cost cutting. But considering that ALM labors under a nine-figure debt load, cost cutting might not be a bad idea.
But the Am Law layoffs pale in comparison to the cuts over at LexisNexis, at least in terms of raw numbers. The company didn’t provide numbers, but the estimates might surprise you….
Monica Bay broke the story over at Law Technology News. A LexisNexis spokesperson, Marc Osborn, issued this statement to LTN:
LexisNexis continuously reviews its needs, operations and other factors to identify what resources and services are necessary to optimally support our customers and improve business operations. As a result of this ongoing process, we regularly build teams in certain areas of the business and reduce in others to be able to deliver next-generation solutions to customers.
How many employees were affected? We’re not sure, but here’s one estimate:
LTN sources, who required anonymity, said that the layoffs are significantly larger than the usual July realignments at the company, which is owned by Reed Elsevier. One source said that the layoffs were global, in the neighborhood of 500 people, and that the New York; Dayton, Ohio; Philadelphia area (King of Prussia); and Charlottesville, Va. offices were among those affected by the reorganization.
And to think that Reed Elsevier just announced good quarterly results. Imagine the bloodletting if they had had a bad quarter.
On the bright side, even though 500 positions sounds like a lot in absolute numbers, it’s not huge in percentage terms. LexisNexis has more than 15,000 employees globally, so 500 positions — assuming the number is correct, which it might not be — amounts to just 3 percent of total headcount. An organization that large surely has some fat to cut.
Still, this is small consolation to the affected individuals. Good luck to the laid-off Lexis employees.
Perhaps the problems of Biglaw go even deeper than we think. Law firms must really be hurting if people aren’t bothering to look up cases any more.
P.S. Also on the legal research beat, we’ve heard from law students who are irate over the removal of Westlaw printers from their law schools (or, to be more precise, irate over Westlaw’s explanation of the move). Flip to the next page for the memo and brief commentary.