Layoffs

The Big Peach turns sour for one leading law firm.

It seems that “Hotlanta” was less than sizzling for one major law firm. A Biglaw shop has decided to beat a retreat from Atlanta, shuttering its money-losing operation down in the ATL.

What prompted this firm to hop on the midnight train from Georgia? And how many people will be affected by the office closing?

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Sorry, the Layoff Lady hasn’t gone away.

Sorry, folks — we couldn’t make it two full weeks without a story about law firm layoffs. We continue to hear reports about them, which we publish as we get sufficient corroboration for each one. If you have information to share, please email us or text us (646-820-8477; texts only, not a voice line).

Thus far, layoffs have hit support staff the hardest. Junior staffers often bear the brunt, since some of the layoffs are seniority-based.

But senior people, including law firm management, are not immune to the cuts. One law firm recently laid off two executives, along with about twenty staffers…

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Are staff attorneys closer to support staff or associates? They fall somewhere in between. They have law degrees and practice law, but they don’t enjoy the pay and partnership prospects of associates.

And staff attorneys are more susceptible to layoffs. Although we’ve heard reports of associate and partner layoffs — which are definitely under-reported, due to the stealthy way in which they’re generally conducted, often with confidentiality agreements — staffers are getting hit harder. And that includes staff attorneys.

We now bring you word of one leading law firm’s double-digit cuts to its staff attorney program….

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Are layoffs becoming daily news in Biglaw once again? Today marks the fourth consecutive day that we have news of reductions to report.

The latest layoffs involve both lawyers and staff, based out of two large legal markets, New York and Washington, D.C….

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This past Sunday’s New York Times featured not just the Cincinnati IRS exposé, but also a depressing discussion about the job market. Here’s the upshot: “Unemployment is staying high despite the end of the recession because we are now in a historic transition. Because of automation, globalization, efficiency and other factors, we no longer need the share of people working that we have had in the past. With these trends moving in only one direction, it is clear that the job crisis is permanent and will not go away with better economic times.”

That’s the analysis of James B. Huntington, author of Work’s New Age: The End of Full Employment and What It Means to You (affiliate link). In the words of researcher Thomas W. Clark, another participant in the Times forum, “given the rise of the machines, human labor is worth less and less in the marketplace.”

You can see this trend playing out in the way that staff layoffs are spreading rapidly throughout large law firms. Today we have more layoff news to share….

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On yesterday’s post about layoffs at a major international law firm, one of my favorite commenters, “Successful Troll,” took note of our stock photo for such stories: “I feel sorry for the pretty blond woman in the picture. It seems she keeps going from firm to firm being laid off — probably 20 times already this year.”

It was funny, but also depressing. How much longer can layoffs, especially staff layoffs and “stealth” layoffs of lawyers, go on? Who is left to be laid off? Where are laid-off employees of law firms supposed to look for new jobs, in an environment in which it seems that all firms, including some very elite ones, are cutting headcount?

For now, these questions remain unanswered. Today we have more layoff news for you….

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Summer associates will soon be arriving at large law firms. So, to paraphrase Antoine Dodson, y’all need to hide yo screamers, hide yo sleazebags, and hide yo husband (or yo gun-toting boyfriend).

While summer associates are present, certain subjects are off-limits. Don’t talk about that group of partners with a huge book of business that’s going to defect any day now. Don’t talk about that salacious lawsuit against the firm that’s still pending.

And don’t talk about layoffs — of staffers or lawyers or both. Reductions are such a buzzkill….

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Many fine things can be said about Cleary Gottlieb. It’s prestigious (#8 in the latest Vault rankings). It’s profitable (#10 in the recently released Am Law 100 profit-per-partner rankings). It’s pleasant, known for a nice firm culture.

So what are the downsides of Cleary? Here’s one: the firm might be a bit… boring.

As you can see from our archives, we don’t write that much about Cleary. And when we do, it’s not always exciting stuff — e.g., Cravath-matching bonunses. Yawn.

Well, today we bring you some news about Cleary that might be at least slightly juicy: a mysterious partner departure, and possible stealth layoffs….

UPDATE (2:30 p.m.): Now with an important update, a statement from the partner in question.

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Mammas, don’t let your babies grow up to be legal secretaries. We’re hearing scattered and somewhat hard-to-confirm reports of lawyer layoffs at various firms — please email us or text us (646-820-8477) if you have news to share — but efforts to reduce the ranks of secretaries are open and notorious.

If you spin through our staff layoff coverage, you’ll see that numerous law firms have shrunk the size of their secretarial staffs. Some firms have done this the hard way, through layoffs, while others have taken the kinder and gentler route, through buyouts.

Today we can report that two leading law firms have jumped on the “voluntary separation” bandwagon. If you’re a recently displaced legal assistant looking for a new position, don’t bother applying to either of these places — one of which is shedding lawyers, too….

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In the Mob, you know a guy is done for when he is asked to “take a ride.” In Biglaw, it’s when the practice group leader asks you to have a drink after work. In-house is different — there is an announcement of restructuring, there is a rumor cycle of what department is getting hit, then there is a waiting period to see which people “take a package” voluntarily, and then the other shoe falls.

It can be unnerving to see people escorted out of an office with a box or two in hand and a security officer following behind. It is scary how quickly a person gets “wiped” from the intranet. They were there this morning, and a few hours later, all email bounces back. Since you are not a manager, you won’t know until there is a knock at your door.

I remember the first time I saw this occur. I was scared out of my mind at the news of “layoffs.” I visited a senior colleague who talked me out of the tree — she had been through too may of these to count and was nonchalant. First, there is nothing you can do if the decision has been made, and second, a bigger corporation means the odds are ever in your favor. Since that first experience, I have taken the advice to heart, but have also taken steps to ensure I can exit as smoothly as possible if the unfortunate ever happens….

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