If you think this economy is just kicking the asses of recent graduates, associates, and support staff, you are forgetting one critical group: partners without portable books of business. Those who make it rain are getting soaked with wealth, but everybody else is just trying to get a drink.
We’ve heard many stories about partners without business quietly being “pushed out” or de-equitized. But we rarely see an entire group of partners publicly “demoted” en masse.
Wow. It’s been a long time since I wrote a headline starting with the words “Nationwide Layoff Watch.” But today it’s appropriate. Above the Law has learned that Husch Blackwell let go of around 20 attorneys, associates and non-equity partners, earlier last month.
We heard rumblings that Husch was planning on making cuts as far back as this July, but it appears that the layoffs only went through in September. Thanks to our sources, some of whom contacted us on our new text message line (646-820-TIPS), we’ve now received multiple reports of layoffs at the firm.
Here’s one tipster’s report:
Husch recently gave pink slips to about 20 attorneys; a number of them are non-equity partners. The sole criteria for termination is last year’s billable hours.
Husch didn’t confirm the number of attorneys let go, but a spokesperson for the firm did give Above the Law a statement…
The rate of job loss in the legal sector appears to be slowing, mirroring what’s happening in the economy more generally. But make no mistake about it — unemployment continues to grow, and news of lawyer layoffs continues to roll in (and will probably accelerate once the human shields called summer associates are removed in a few weeks).
A reader passed along this article (subscription), about layoffs at the large Midwestern firm of Husch Blackwell, with commentary:
It’s a pleasure to see my old firm humbled. At least now they are speaking the truth about why people are being let go.
That would seem to be a reference to this snafu from March. Continues the tipster:
Note that co-chair Joe Conran spoke for the firm instead of Dave Fenley, that [redacted]. Meanwhile, Joe (in person) isn’t much better. The guy is [redacted]. He just happens to have the clients, which is why he is co-chair.
In the spirit of Midwestern niceness — Husch’s website boasts that it is “deeply rooted in Midwestern values” — we’ve omitted the ad hominems. Suffice it to say that our source isn’t a fan of either Joe Conran or Dave Fenley.
In this latest round of layoffs, the firm let go of 10 lawyers. In March, it laid off 17 lawyers and 45 staff members. It laid off an undetermined number of lawyers last year.
By our count, that makes three rounds of layoffs. Let’s hope the third time is a charm for Husch. Husch firm lets go of 10 attorneys [Missouri Lawyers Media (subscription)] Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of Husch Blackwell
The mid-sized large Midwestern firm of Husch Blackwell laid off a number of attorneys and staff today, proving once again that nobody is safe from the economic downturn. Husch laid off 17 attorneys, including partners, and 45 staff today.
For some strange reason, Husch Blackwell doesn’t want to actually admit that these layoffs were due to the recession. According to the Kansas City Star:
Citing performance reasons, Husch Blackwell Sanders has terminated 17 lawyers and 45 staff members throughout its 13 offices….
[Firm chairman Dave] Fenley declined to use the term “layoffs” in connection with the firm’s actions, saying the term wrongly implied the attorneys were let go because business at the firm had slackened.
He said that Husch Blackwell was “going gangbusters” in certain areas and was meeting its numbers this year, “which is pleasantly surprising.”
Mr. Chairman, on the coasts we’ve explored the studio space with layoffs undertaken despite gang-busting-business. It turns out, people get really annoyed when you say things like that. Most people are able to identify the substance “raining” down on them. HTH.
This isn’t even the first round of layoffs at Husch Blackwell. Back in February, a tipster reported:
Although they weren’t called “layoffs,” Kansas City and St. Louis based Husch Blackwell Sanders has laid off at least 24 lawyers…. When confronted with news by Missouri Lawyers Weekly that at least 24 lawyers had been laid off, co-chairman David Fenley reported in the article that (1) he didn’t know how many were let go; and (2) the lawyers let go were the result of the normal review process.
Aren’t midwesterners supposed to be more “forthright” than “the fat-cats on Wall Street?” I mean, this firm is based in Missouri, home to Harry Buck Stopping Truman himself.
In any event, good luck to the many associates, partners, and staffers LAID OFF reviewed away from Husch Blackwell.
The legal industry is being disrupted at every level by technological advances. While legal tech entrepreneurs and innovators are racing to create a more efficient and productive future, there is widespread indifference on the part of attorneys toward these emerging technologies.
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 seven years. You can reach them by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We at Kinney Asia have made a number of FCPA / White Collar US associate placements in Hong Kong / China thus far in 2014. Most of such placements have been commercial litigation associates from major US markets, fluent in Mandarin, switching to FCPA / White Collar litigation. Some have already had FCPA experience, but those are difficult candidates for firms to find (this will change in coming years as US firms are now promoting FCPA / White Collar to their 2L summers who are fluent in Mandarin and have an interest in transferring to China at some point).
Legal Week quoted Kinney’s Head of Asia, Evan Jowers, extensively in the following relevant article here.
There is a new trend in the market, though, where mid-level transactional US associates, fluent in spoken Mandarin and written Chinese, are interviewing for and in some cases landing junior FCPA / White Collar spots in Hong Kong / China at very top tier US firms.
When the LexisNexis Cloud Technology Survey results were reported earlier this year, it showed that attorneys were starting to peer less skeptically into the future, and slowly but surely leaning more toward all the benefits the law cloud has to offer.
Because let’s face it, plenty of attorneys are perhaps a bit too comfortable with their “system” of practice management, which may or may not include neon highlighters, sticky notes, dog-eared file folders, and a word processing program that was last updated when the term “raise the roof” was still de rigueur.