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 evolution of relationships between the genders continues. Currently, in law firms, there is an interesting conundrum; balancing the desire for a gender-blind workplace where “the best lawyer gets the work and advances” and the reality of navigating the complicated maze created by the fact that, in general, men and women do possess differences in their work styles. These variations impact who they work with, how they work, how they build professional connections and how organizations ultimately leverage, reward and recognize the talents of all.
Henry Ford sat on his workbench and sighed. A year earlier, he had personally built 13,000 Model Ts with his own hands. Fashioning lugnuts and tie rods by hand, Ford was loath to ask for help. Sure, there were things about the car that he didn’t quite understand. This explains the lack of reliable navigation systems in the Model T. But Ford persevered because he knew that unless he did everything, he could not reliably call these cars his own.
“Unless my own personal toil is responsible for it, it may as well be called a Hyundai,” Ford remarked at the time.
The preceding may sound unfamiliar because it is categorically untrue. And also monumentally stupid. Henry Ford didn’t build all those cars by hand. He had help and plenty of it. Almost exactly one hundred years ago, Henry Ford opened up the most technologically advanced assembly line the world had ever seen. Built on the premise that work can be chopped up into digestible pieces and completed by many men better than one, the line ushered in an age of unparalleled productivity.
Today, an attorney refers business because he can’t do everything the client asks of him.
There are three reasons why this is way dumber than a made-up Henry Ford story…
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: [email protected].
Since late last year, things have been booming in Hong Kong / China in cap markets, especially Hong Kong IPOs. M&A deal flow has recently been getting a bit stronger as well. Although one can’t predict such things with any certainty, all signs are pointing to a banner entire 2014 for the top end US corporate and cap markets practices in Hong Kong / China. This is not really new news, as its been the feeling most in the market have had for a few months now and things continue to look good.
The head of our Asia practice, Evan Jowers, has been in Hong Kong for about 10 days a month (with trips every other month to both Shanghai and Bejing) for the past 7 months, and spending most of his time there meeting with senior US hiring partners at just about all the major US and UK firms there, as well as prospective candidates at all associate levels and partner levels, and when in the US, Evan works Asia hours and is regularly on the phone with such persons, as our the other members of our Asia team. Our Yuliya Vinokurova is in Hong Kong every other month and Robert is there about 5 times a year as well. While we have a solid Asia team of recruiters, Evan Jowers will spend at least some time with all of our candidates for Asia position. We have had long standing relationships, and good friendships in some cases, with hiring partners and other senior US partners in Asia for 8 years now.