Working as a lawyer for the government is regarded by many as the life raft for riding out the recession. But thanks to shrinking budgets, attorneys in the public sector are also losing their jobs.
Yesterday the Bronx District Attorney, Robert T. Johnson, issued a letter announcing a layoff of 12 assistant district attorneys in his office, scheduled to take effect by the end of this month. The prosecutors who are losing their jobs have already been notified. Johnson blamed the New York City financial plan, which significantly reduces the office’s funding for the fiscal years of 2011, which started yesterday, and 2012.
The cuts were not unexpected, since Johnson had laid the groundwork for layoffs in a letter back in May. In that letter, first reported by the New York Daily News, Johnson predicted that he might have to lay off as many as 45 ADAs. So the cut of 12 ADAs could be seen as “good news,” since it’s smaller than some expected. (In his letter yesterday, Johnson said that he was able to avoid larger cuts thanks in part to some cost-saving measures in the office.)
But Robert Johnson announced another piece of news at the same time, which a number of veteran prosecutors found strange and upsetting….
Earlier this month, we reported on staff layoffs in the Los Angeles and Dallas offices of Jones Day. Now we’re hearing about additional layoffs at the firm, which raise the question: Could staff layoffs at JD perhaps be a firm-wide phenomenon, even if the firm only confesses to what it’s confronted with?
Yesterday the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Jones Day cut an unspecified number of non-lawyer employees in its Cleveland office. The firm cited the old “technology allows us to be more efficient” rationale, which has been widely invoked by law firms when they cut stuff:
[T]he 117-year-old firm issued a statement saying that “universal adoption of smart phones, voicemail and email enables (and requires) lawyers to be more self-sufficient,” reducing the need to have as many support staff to perform duties now done directly by lawyers.
“Although we deeply regret the need for this action, these changes preserve our ability to best serve clients and remain one of the leading global law firms,” the company said.
[M]any of our peer competitors will come out weaker, not stronger. They may well protect their short-term financial metrics (although it will be interesting to see how we fare vs. the firms that slashed and burned), but they will pay a long-term price. Some of it is obvious: Firing staff and associates, or freezing associate salaries, or doing away with summer programs entirely makes it very clear to those groups that either that firm was not efficiently organized and managed before this crisis, or its first interest is protecting the owners’ incomes, not the various constituents that depend on the firm. While that is hardly un-American, it does tend to focus people’s minds on the fact that their firm clearly does not have their interests at the top of its agenda.
So, if Jones Day were to fire staff, would that make it “very clear” that JD isn’t efficiently organized?
So you’ve been laid off. What do you do? There are so many options: sulk; cry; send out résumés; try to sell your degree; spend time in the Above the Law comments section, complaining about your deadbeat firm…
Or you could take your 2009 Porsche Cayman S on a road trip across America. That’s what a laid-off sixth-year associate did when she got canned by her prestigious AmLaw 20 firm. The associate from an East Coast office is keeping her identity under wraps, so we’ll call her Porschia.
The “double ivy league educated corporate lawyer” started a blog about her adventures, called Driving with Gusto, which has beautiful photos of spacious skies, amber waves of grain, and purple mountain majesties.
While the Porsche is a manual, we wouldn’t say she drives stick. Porschia is a lesbian, and so there are many fun tales of hot girl-on-girl action from across the fruited plains…
Back in February 2009, Latham & Watkins laid off 440 people. They weren’t the first firm to lay people off, they weren’t the last, and you can even argue that they didn’t even lay off the most associates in percentage terms.
Now, the latest ignominy. The verb “Lathamed” isn’t just in Urban Dictionary; it’s in the Latham & Watkins firm description in the Chambers guide:
In 2008 gross revenue slipped to $2 billion and profits per equity partner were down by 21 percent, according to 2009 Am Law data. The initial response was a number of performance-related layoffs which was followed, in February 2009, by the laying off of another 190 associates and 250 support staff members. Such was the severity of the cuts that the expression “to be Lathamed” (which, by its most polite definition, means “to be laid off”) was coined.
There’s a reason why our weekly column by Law Shucks has been retitled from “This Week in Layoffs” to “This Week in Biglaw.” The pace of law firm layoffs has slowed dramatically. They haven’t stopped completely, and we suspect that many firms are still conducting “stealth layoffs” (which we welcome tips about — just email us). But many firms have stopped cutting, and some are even hiring again. Last month the legal sector added 300 jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
In terms of the bigger picture, we’re not out of the economic woods just yet — Europe’s economic troubles have led to increased chatter about a possible double-dip recession — but things are definitely improving. Here’s one sign, reported earlier this week by the Associated Press:
One sign of better economic times is when more people start finding jobs. Another is when they feel confident enough to quit them. More people quit their jobs in the past three months than were laid off — a sharp reversal after 15 straight months in which layoffs exceeded voluntary departures, suggesting the job market is finally thawing.
In addition to the strengthening job market, there’s another reason for increased voluntary movement: overwork and discontent among those who managed to hang on to their jobs in the recession….
Many large law firms realize the importance of maintaining good ties with their alumni. It’s the right thing to do, and it’s also the smart thing to do. Biglaw alums often end up in places where they can be helpful to their former employers — e.g., in-house, government, and the media (cough cough).
They were also invited to a cocktail party. This didn’t go over so well with those who became alumni involuntarily, i.e., the laid-off:
Are they f**king kidding me? Oh man I want to go to their Spring Fling. Cocktails in the boardroom. Do you think if we get really drunk we’ll be escorted out by security? Because I enjoyed it the first time.
Wait a sec — did the firm really have laid-off lawyers accompanied out by security?
We felt our report was fairly hard-hitting. But one Winston source thinks we didn’t go far enough:
In my humble opinion, you weren’t sufficiently critical of Winston. The real message here is that many associates, including those who make their hours, are getting little to no raise because the firm is re-drawing the rules after-the-fact to ensure that it only has to pay out what it wants, and making partner is basically impossible here from now on.
Morale is shockingly low. The firm’s closest competitors like Sidley and Mayer Brown do not appear to be acting nearly as devious (though I am sure they have their bad behaviors too).
Meanwhile, some incoming associates at Winston seem anxious about their fates — and how they’re going to make ends meet while waiting to start at the firm….
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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