As we noted earlier today, the legal sector has added 2,300 jobs since the start of 2014. For an industry that currently employs more than 1.1 million people, 2,300 new jobs doesn’t sound like a lot — but hey, it’s better than shedding jobs.
Note that we’re talking about net job growth. Some legal employers are hiring, while others are firing.
Which major law firm just laid off a total of 52 lawyers and staffers last week?
The firm in question is Edwards Wildman, no stranger to these pages. In February, we noted that Edwards Wildman ranked #3 on a list of firms that suffered the most partner defections in 2013. Last May, we reported on the firm laying off 20 support staffers.
This time the cuts run deeper. Here’s the statement the firm sent to us:
Advances in technology have resulted in a need for fewer support staff and related services in law firms. In addition, we are positioning our firm to reflect the industries and markets we serve. As part of this process, and after careful consideration, we are reducing staffing levels by 42 administrative positions, as well as 10 lawyers, in 10 of the firm’s 16 offices. Those affected will receive severance packages commensurate with their tenure and position levels, and we thank them for their many contributions to the firm. While it is always difficult to say farewell to long-time colleagues, we are confident that this realignment and the creation of an in-house administrative resource center will enable us to serve clients more efficiently and strengthen the firm in the long term.
We had a feeling these cuts were coming. Earlier this year, an Edwards Wildman tipster told us: “Can only you tell you that a bunch of lawyers and staff are about to leave… will hit the press [soon]. You may already know.”
In terms of who bore the brunt of the cuts, we understand that Boston was the hardest-hit office and that secretarial support and IT were the hardest-hit departments. Said a source, “Some staff members who had 20+ years invested were told to pack up and exit the building on the spot.”
In terms of the rationale, employees were told that the firm “needs to right the ship” and correct a staffing imbalance. For secretarial support, for example, the firm will adopt a higher attorney-to-secretary ratio, with overflow work sent to a virtual secretarial pool that will be available via chat and video.
Affected individuals were notified on Thursday morning. Office meetings took place that afternoon.
“Management called a meeting but was very vague,” a tipster told us. “Refused to say who was let go or give specifics. Layoffs are becoming a yearly trend here; and yet, leadership makes offers to new laterals left and right. No email was circulated to discuss the layoffs, likely for fear of leak to ATL. To clarify, they refused to say which individuals it was impacting. We have to monitor the website, I guess. They did confirm the numbers.”
Good luck to the affected individuals. Hopefully they’ll be able to find new opportunities as the legal job market slowly warms up.