Ed. note: Above the Law has teamed up with Law Shucks. Law Shucks has done excellent work translating all of the layoff news into user-friendly charts and graphs: the Layoff Tracker.
We’ll actually be hitting a week and a half in this roundup, going back to August 1. As we’ve been saying for a while, September is not likely to be as tranquil as August was (3 layoffs, 126 people in total), and the layoffs have already started. Eleven days in, and twice as many firms have laid off almost twice as many people.
Let’s step back and start with the big picture.
The really bad news came just before the Labor Day weekend, as unemployment hit 9.7%, a 26-year high. If you really want to find a silver lining, the net job loss for August was less horrible than expected, coming in at 216,000 jobs lost for the month. The decrease in total unemployment in July is now just a blip on a 16 out of 17 month streak of worsening employment numbers. It’s not even like the improvement in July was a result of actual new jobs, either — it came from people becoming so disaffected that they stop looking for jobs entirely, which takes them off the rolls of the unemployed. Hurray for government math!
Overall, 6.9 million jobs have been lost since the beginning of 2008 — which, coincidentally, is also the beginning of the Law Shucks layoff tracker (we count from Cadwalader’s first round). Major firms account for just over 13,000 of those.
So what has been going on so far this month? After the jump, we analyze the looming surge.
The penalty for having a partner announce layoffs on a train was six spots according to Vault. There have been other Pillsbury cutbacks. But the Acela incident happened when associates had Vault surveys sitting on their desks.
After the jump, let’s take a look at some of the other firms in this group.
First the good news. Cooley Godward has hired three IP litigators away from White & Case. Cooley’s press release explains that the three new partners will bolster Cooley’s Palo Alto office:
Cooley Godward Kronish LLP announced today that Heidi Keefe, Mark Weinstein and Mark Lambert, previously partners with White & Case LLP, have joined the firm’s national IP litigation practice. The three partners will be resident in the Palo Alto office.
“We are delighted to welcome such an accomplished and respected team of litigators to Cooley’s IP litigation practice,” said Frank Pietrantonio, head of Cooley’s IP litigation practice. “Their experience in the technology and life science sectors complements Cooley’s established platform in these areas and will enhance our ability to meet the growing demands of our clients.”
The situation at White & Case has been well-documented. So the partner defections are not totally shocking.
For Cooley, it doesn’t look like the good partnership news translated into positive associate outcomes. Details after the jump.
* Former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales finally found a job! He’s going to terrorize the students at Texas Tech. [Houston Chronicle]
* Dewey & LeBoeuf snags three top tech lawyers from Cooley Godward. The three dealmakers wanted to make a splash with their switch, giving the Times DealBook juicy quotes like, “[W]e’re M.&A. lawyers, and we know how to do due diligence. And we believe Dewey offered a great opportunity.” [New York Times]
* The cold, dead hand of Heller Ehrman may rise from the grave to serve papers to Covington & Burling. [The Recorder]
* Lindsay Lohan’s fake tanning spray may not be an original creation. [Courthouse News Service]
* The lawsuits are crashing in after last month’s D.C. Metro accident. [DCist]
* Sarah Palin’s personal lawyer, Thomas Van Flein, responds! [WSJ Washington Wire]
We reported earlier today that Cooley Godward laid off a number of attorneys and staff. The firm just sent out its official press release, and it turns out the cuts run even deeper than we previously reported.
According to the firm, 52 attorneys and 62 staff were let go today:
Given the continued slowdown we have experienced in pockets of the Firm over the last five months and the forecast for continuing global economic turmoil in 2009, the Executive and Management Committees concluded that a reduction is necessary at this time. At all levels throughout the Firm we strive to provide an opportunity for everyone to grow professionally and at an appropriate pace. It was the collective judgment of the Firm’s management that in the current environment we would compromise our ability to achieve that goal without reducing the Firm’s headcount across the board.
Our tipsters report that the San Diego office was particularly hard hit. In addition, a commenter said that New York took it on the chin as well.
Read the full Cooley release after the jump. Good luck to all those let go today.
When the ATL inbox is on fire, there is a lot of smoke somewhere out there in legal community.
Tipsters report that Cooley Godward has decided to make significant layoffs today. Tipsters that work at the firm place the numbers as high as 10 percent of associates and staff. That could put the overall number of layoffs into the fifties. The laid off employees will have to be out by the end of the week. They’re being given a 3 month severance package.
Cooley Godward spokespeople could not be reached for immediate comment.
But other tipsters report that attorneys were told that the layoffs were based on the economy, not anybody’s individual performance. The layoffs are also understood to affect all offices and some departments (like IP transactional) that one wouldn’t necessarily expect.
We will update you as more information comes to light.
The now confirms that there were layoffs today, more than we reported here. The firm says that 52 attorneys and 62 staff were let go. Check here for continuing coverage.
To prevent you from jumping out your windows, we’re revisiting a Wall Street Journal article from earlier this month on the silver lining for law firms during the economic crisis.
Firms with relatively strong balance sheets are hiring lawyers from competitors that are hurting from the dropoff in mergers, debt offerings and other staples of the legal business. Leaders of these firms figure that being bigger and more geographically diverse will help them weather downturns in particular market sectors and capitalize on complex business opportunities that require a variety of specialties. In most cases, they’re even giving the new hires raises.
Some firms are buying on the cheap, while others are giving new attention to more resilient practice groups:
K&L Gates LLP has acquired medium-size firms in Texas and North Carolina this year and hired 45 partners from other firms. “We have no debt — no long-term debt, no short-term debt — and therefore have a balance sheet that allows us to grow aggressively into a downturn,” says Peter Kalis, chairman of the 1,700-lawyer firm…
But many law firms believe that they have no choice but to expand specialties, such as restructuring, intellectual property, securities litigation and antitrust, that are generally believed to remain steady — or even pick up — during down cycles. Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft LLP in New York laid off 131 lawyers — nearly 20% of its staff — earlier this year because of the implosion in the mortgage-backed securities market, a key practice area for the firm. But it has hired lawyers in other practice areas, including financial restructuring.
Fans of Sex and the City will recall the famous episode in which Carrie was dumped via post-it note. If law firm mergers are like relationships, here’s a tale that seems as classy as breaking up by post-it. [FN1]
The New York office of Gunderson Dettmer was all set to move, en masse, to Cooley Godward. The 30 or so Gunderson attorneys had new, Cooley-issued Blackberries and laptops, with new email accounts and software already set up. They were set to start this past Tuesday.
On the Friday before Labor Day, the main partner in Gunderson’s NYC office simply called to let the Cooley crew know the move was off. This was not taken well by Cooley, since this had been considered a done deal for some time. The Gunderson lead partner did not even bother to call the CEO of Cooley, but instead called a relatively junior partner to break the news.
“Cooley is really pissed,” according to our tipster, “but they are moving forward.” Just like a jilted lover, Cooley seems to take the view that doing well is the best revenge: “They happen to be about to open a new office in a strategic location in the U.S., with a big bang, and with double-digit numbers of lateral partners as part of the potential deal.”
There is a body of law that governs who keeps the engagement ring when a wedding is called off. Could it be applied by analogy to those Cooley-issued BlackBerries and laptops?
Gunderson did not respond to our requests for comment. We reached out to Cooley, which declined to comment through a spokesperson.
[FN1] We adore post-its, and we love those little colored flags even more; but they can’t be used for everything.
We’re entering the second half of the Vault 100. This is part of a series of open threads to discuss the firms considered to be the profession’s most prestigious. Because we know you love prestige. And the opportunity for “TTT” accusations. [FN1]
Here’s the next bunch of firms, with prestige scores in parentheses:
Vault notes that attorneys at Pillsbury are treated to “freshly baked cookies.” But they also have to put up with being referred to as “Pillsburians” by Vault.
Compare, contrast, discuss… and if you’re at Pillsbury, have a chocolate chip cookie for us. Earlier:Vault 100 Open Threads – 2009
[FN1] We periodically get e-mails asking for the definition of “TTT,” which appears so often in comment threads. As the uninitiated have surely gathered, it’s a derogatory term. Likely originating on AutoAdmit, it stands for “third tier toilet.” For more, see Urban Dictionary.
Spring! Cherry blossoms, opening day, and pedigreed lawyers uniting in marriage. We’re pleased to be back with another installment of Legal Eagle Wedding Watch, featuring these three impressive couples:
A college graduate without student loan debt is akin to reading a kind quote about Kim Kardashian in a tabloid—it’s rare.
In the past eight years, student loan debt has nearly tripled to a whopping $1.1 trillion, and in the past 10 years, the percentage of 25-year-olds with such debt has risen from 25% to 43%
It’s gotten so bad, in fact, that New York Fed economists warned last month that the burden of student debt could stilt consumer spending by twentysomethings, as well as further hamper the recovery of the housing market and economy.
To get a better idea of what massive student loan debt (we’re talking over $100,000 massive) looks like, we talked to an attorney who graduated with a large student loan debt. We also consulted LearnVest Planning Services CFP® Katie Brewer to see just how their repayment plans stack up.
S. Fischer, 36, Attorney Graduated: 2001
How Much I Borrowed: $100,000
What I Still Owe: $45,000
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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