Layoffs

Sheena Monnin

Ed. note: We hope that you had a great July 4th — and that you’re enjoying a four-day weekend. But if you’re at work today and looking for diversion, check us early and often — we will be posting today (although on a reduced publication schedule).

* Lawyer of the Day Long Weekend: Christopher Kirby, whose profanity-laced tirade at the mother of a special-education student during a school board meeting has gone viral. Stay classy, Chris. [New York Daily News]

* Speaking of classy, if you make Donald Trump look good, you’re doing it wrong. The $5 million arbitration award against former beauty queen Sheena Monnin just got upheld by Judge J. Paul Oetken (S.D.N.Y.). [New York Law Journal]

* Have you been injured in an accident? Call a New York State legislator, who might be earning a six-figure income by moonlighting at a personal-injury firm. [New York Times]

* Nationwide layoff watch: Dickstein dismisses seven partners in New York. [WestlawNext Practitioner Insights (sub. req.)]

* Who doesn’t love rule by lawyers? Adli Mansour, chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court of Egypt, takes over as the nation’s interim leader. [New York Times]

* If you’re feeling the heat in D.C. these days, lawyer turned ice cream entrepreneur Victoria Lai can help. [Washington Post]

It’s either this sad box or the poor ‘Layoff Lady.’

Are the Weil Gotshal layoffs a harbinger of a rough second-half of the year for Biglaw? Early signs are not encouraging. Since last week we’ve seen office closings, secretary firings, and the amibiguous WilmerHale goings-on. There is a palpable tension in the wake of the Weil cuts. Where do we go from here? What, if any, will be the follow-on effect of Weil’s move?

In the wake of the Weil cuts, our friend Bruce MacEwen gave an interesting interview to Bloomberg Law’s Lee Pacchia. Bruce speculated that there is possibility of up to 10% overcapacity in Biglaw, and the supply and demand curves for legal talent have permanently shifted. In Bruce’s view, Weil is “very much ahead of the curve.” Ominous tidings for associates everywhere. There’s an interesting point in the interview where Pacchia wonders whether the legal profession will ever return to a “halcyon era” where law firm partners’ immediate self-interest is minimized in favor of long-term stewardship. Bruce, channeling Clubber Lang, responds that the only thing that will return us to that golden era, if it ever existed, is more pain.

Last week we conducted a research poll asking for your take on whether the Weil layoffs signal an oncoming reprise of the Biglaw bloodbath of 2008-09 or a singular phenomenon. Let’s look at the results of our poll and some choice highlights from your responses….

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In the dark days of 2009, we had frequent occasion to discuss the difference between “layoffs” and “performance-based dismissals.” Layoffs are generally understood as economically motivated, large-scale reductions in headcount, while performance-based dismissals involve specific individuals being asked to leave for cause. (Some see this as the difference being getting laid-off versus getting fired, although I’ve sometimes heard layoffs referred to as firings.)

The distinction can be a fine one. Unless cuts are made based on factors like seniority or practice area, layoffs often target weaker performers, so they can look a lot like performance-based terminations. There’s no bright-line cutoff, in numerical terms, for what constitutes a round of layoffs. And you can’t let firm characterization control, since many firms find it in their reputational interest to deny layoffs (unless the cuts are so large as to be undeniable; see, e.g., last week’s Weil Gotshal layoffs).

Today we bring you a story that captures this ambiguity. Several lawyers and staffers, totaling a number believed to be in the double digits, have been asked to leave a firm — but the firm denies that it’s conducting “layoffs.” We’ll present the facts and let you be the judge….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: Layoffs? What Layoffs?”

Last week, I shared some thoughts regarding Biglaw summer associates. I thought it would be interesting to interview a current summer associate, and I was happy to hear from some brave volunteers.

The summer associate who is the subject of this interview has an impressive résumé and is off to a solid start at their highly-rated law school. That their credentials are strong is not surprising, considering the challenging job environment for those hoping to land a summer associate position in the first place.

The words of our interviewee are unedited, except to protect their anonymity. I’ve added some responsive parenthetical commentary after each response. I thank our interviewee for their candid observations and thoughtful opinions in response to these questions….

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Untenured law professors are not protected from pink slips.

As law school applications continue to decline, law schools must make hard choices. A law school can maintain the size of its entering class — and the revenue stream generated by those students — but at the cost of lowering its admissions standards. Or a law school can shrink the size of its entering class, accepting the decline in revenue to maintain the caliber of its student body, and make up for the lost revenue by cutting costs.

In my view, the second approach is superior. As the legal job market continues to shrink, with even top law firms conducting large-scale layoffs, it makes sense for law schools to produce fewer graduates. The legal profession is “right-sizing,” and law schools should follow suit.

But even if the second approach is better than the first, it’s not without pain. Last week, we heard reports of one law school basically axing its entire junior faculty. All of the untenured professors received notice that their contracts might not be renewed for the 2014-2015 academic year. Ouch.

As is so often the case, though, there’s more to this story than meets the eye….

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That was tiring, huh?

A dizzying array of legal news delivered almost non-stop for an entire week. Emotional highs when DOMA is struck down, lows when a pillar of the legal landscape for nearly 50 years is swept aside, leaving millions of Americans even more concerned about their constitutional rights than they were before. There was an epic filibuster and failed jokes. This was a hell of a week to be covering the law.

As the frenzied week draws to a close, I decided to look back and compile my personal review of the major events of the week, gathered in one omnibus post.

So let’s take a look at the week that was ranging from Aaron Hernandez to the Supreme Court…

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Are legal secretaries the buggy-whip makers of Biglaw? If you lose your job as a legal secretary, is it worth it trying to find a new secretarial position, or should you get new training and try to switch fields?

The latter option might be better, at least if you are still early enough in your career. Check out this interesting (but depressing) article from the Wall Street Journal, Why Legal Secretaries Can’t Find Jobs. One of the secretaries mentioned in the article is still looking for a new permanent position some four years after he was Lathamed.

And, sadly, the layoffs of legal secretaries show no sign of abating. On the heels of the Weil Gotshal layoffs — in which 60 associates and 110 staffers, including 60 legal secretaries, lost their jobs — we have more cuts to report….

(Note the UPDATE after the jump.)

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Ed. note: This is a new series from Bruce MacEwen and Janet Stanton of Adam Smith Esq. and JDMatch. “Across the Desk” will take a thoughtful look at recruiting, career paths, professional development, human capital, and related issues. Some of these pieces have previously appeared, in slightly different form, on AdamSmithEsq.com.

Adam Smith, Esq. isn’t in the business of covering — or typically even commenting on — late-breaking news, but there’s news and then there’s news.

And the Weil layoffs were reported above the fold on the front page of the Wall Street Journal and as the lead story for much of the day in The New York Times‘ estimable “DealBook.”

To the affected associates and staff: Nothing comforting or reassuring can be said — this is dreadful, awful, horrible, bad bad news for you — but if you can gain perspective after awhile, remember that in America it’s no sin to be knocked down; the sin is not getting right back up.

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Some say that San Diego has the best weather in the continental United States. But it seems that the climate there might be less than hospitable for large law firms.

Last year, Baker & McKenzie closed its office in San Diego, finding the metropolis didn’t live up to its nickname of “America’s finest city.” And now we have news of another Biglaw firm shutting down its S.D. outpost.

It’s not on the scale of the massive Weil layoffs, but the closing could cause a significant number of lawyers and staff to lose their jobs. Here are the details….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: Sayonara, San Diego”

Stand with Wendy.

* “Screw all these other cases, man, we’re ready for the real stuff — you know… the gay stuff.” Damn, a satirical article that perfectly captures our thoughts. Don’t worry, it’s coming today. [The Onion]

* On a more serious note, this is obviously a really big day for gay marriage at the Supreme Court. Will the justices settle the score, or leave this movement’s supporters high and dry? [Wall Street Journal]

* Big Tech has always been a proponent of gay rights, and some of the most respected brands in America are hoping same-sex marriage doesn’t get the blue screen of death from SCOTUS. [Politico]

* Everyone else loses, but Scalia always wins. He couldn’t have asked for more after Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act was struck down. So long, “racial entitlements.” [L.A. Now / Los Angeles Times]

* “No, we’re not going to do layoffs. We’d never do layoffs. Everything is just fine. Seriously, we won’t do stealth layoffs either. Promise! Believe us, pretty please,” said the managing partner of every peer Biglaw firm after the Weil winnowing. [Am Law Daily]

* Law schools are freaking out about a new American Bar Association proposal to tighten their bar passage requirements, and they’re blaming all of their alarm on diversity issues. [National Law Journal]

* This state senator wins the award for most unique filibuster attempt ever. To block new abortion regulations in Texas, Sen. Wendy Davis spoke endlessly for 11 hours straight. You go girl! [CNN]

* Pop star Chris Brown was charged in a hit-and-run, and surprisingly, Rihanna had nothing to do with it. The new charges may affect his probation, and he might even go to jail. [Arts Beat / New York Times]

* Breaking news: Aaron Hernandez was just taken into custody at his home. Discuss. [USA Today]

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