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Dechert logo.JPGWe started getting reports this morning that Dechert let go a number of secretaries and legal assistants. But the numbers from our tipsters were low, very low. The Legal Intelligencer just reported that Dechert has in fact laid off an amazing 72 staffers.

A firm spokeswoman confirmed that Dechert has laid off 72 administrative staff across its U.S. offices. She wouldn’t get into details about which positions or how many in each office, but said the cuts were basically proportionate across the firm’s 11 U.S. offices.

The 72 administrative positions account for about 12.6 percent of the firms 570 U.S. staff members. Dechert has around 1,045 attorneys firmwide and the spokeswoman said there are no plans to cut any more staff or any attorneys based on what they know at this time.

An attorney tipster moves straight to the problem associates at Dechert are all worried about:

[I]t’s not like we can have less secretaries unless there are less lawyers…

Dechert has come to the layoff buffet early and often. In October, there was a lot of contention about how many attorneys Dechert has been stealthily getting rid of. At least the staff layoffs are being properly announced.

But then again, Dechert staff also got to feel a little bit of that “Dechert style” on their way out the door. More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Dechert Ices 72 Staff Positions”

After stealthily laying off at least 30 associates, the Fried Frank bonus announcement should come as no surprise:

FF bonus memo.jpg

law firm associate bonus watch 2008 biglaw bonuses.jpgNobody expected Fried Frank to break into Skadden territory on bonuses. But at least there is a nod towards the reason for paying the low-end bonuses championed by Cravath:

Current global economic conditions have presented new challenges for our clients and your contributions play an important role in our ability to work together to meet these challenges.

Let’s close off the Fried Frank loop after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Associate Bonus Watch: Fried Frank Wades Into Half-Skadden Pool”

Facebook logo MySpace Friendster Abovethelaw Above the Law blog.jpgYou can use Facebook to accumulate friends, poke strangers, and tag photos. And if you’re a lawyer in Australia, you might be able to use it to serve a complaint.

Our legal friends in the Land Down Under have made an interesting ruling. From the Associated Press:

A court in Australia has approved the use of Facebook, a popular social networking Web site, to notify a couple that they lost their home after defaulting on a loan.

The Australian Capital Territory Supreme Court last Friday approved lawyer Mark McCormack’s application to use Facebook to serve the legally binding documents after several failed attempts to contact the couple at the house and by e-mail.

The lien notice could have been sent by Facebook messaging–the judge specified that posting to a Wall was not kosher–but the couple got wind of the plan in news reports and took their profiles down.

We love rulings that legitimize the use of Facebook in the workplace. Next up: legal notice via gchat?

Australia OKs Facebook for serving lien notice [Associated Press]

economy freezes over.JPGIf you liked your 2008 salary, you’re going to love your 2009 salary. Latham & Watkins just sent around this email about 2009 associate compensation:

The world economy is experiencing unforeseen and unprecedented dislocations. Our clients are feeling those impacts and the legal community is not immune. The Executive Committee has spent the last few weeks discussing these critical issues in the context of planning for 2009. While we anticipate that the diversity of our practices and global reach will serve us well in the year to come, it seems clear that the global economy will continue to be challenged at least through 2009. As a result, we are modifying associate compensation as part of a prudent business strategy.

Latham Watkins LLP lw logo.jpgEffective January 1, 2009, associates moving to the next class year will continue to receive the same base compensation as they received in 2008. Please do not hesitate to contact your local Associates Committee members if you have any questions about the resulting salary scales.

We expect as a general matter to continue to reward outstanding performances through our merit-based bonus pool. As in previous years, we will announce bonuses in late January.

We are confident that by continuing to work together we will be well positioned to succeed in the face of the economic challenges that lie ahead. We thank each of you for your many contributions to the firm.

Freezing salaries is now part of the “market.” The latest associate pay raise is effectively being undone.

After the jump, what was that about bonuses?

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Pay Raise Freeze Watch: Latham & Watkins”

financial crisis legal salaries.JPGI’ve been operating under the assumption that the legal layoff party of 2008 would stop in 2008. My rose colored logic has been simple. I’ve assumed that Biglaw managers can: A) count, B) add, and C) figure out a sustainable 2009 business model. If those three assumptions are true, I figured that most well managed law firms would be able to get through all of their attorney reductions in 2008 and get themselves into an appropriate position for 2009.

Flawed logic? Perhaps. It’s what the shrinks like to call a “coping mechanism.”

Of course, in making these assumptions I ignored the possibility that some firms were still using “operation ostrich”: a heads down, asses high approach that gleefully exposes tail feathers to the still spinning wheel of economic destruction.

The Legal Intelligencer today warns us that the first quarter of 2009 could see more chopping at firms that are still trying to ride out the storm:

Move over, New York — it’s Philadelphia’s time in the hot seat. Legal blog Above the Law was abuzz with reports and rumors Monday that two Philadelphia firms saw associate cuts with one of them laying off staff as well. And according to one consultant, the Pennsylvania market could most likely expect to see more attorney cuts in the new year as firms wait out the holiday season.

After the jump, the new cuts in the new year aren’t likely to be localized just to the Philadelphia area.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “More Layoffs Coming in 2009?”

Cadwalader Wickersham Taft new logo CWT AboveTheLaw blog.jpgI’m not sure how you make a “Happy Holidays” e-card mildly insulting, but then again I’ve never been schooled in the dark arts practiced by Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft.

Over the weekend, CWT sent around an inspirational holiday greeting card. Check out the screenshot:

CWT holiday screenshot.jpg

Great! Lots of firms send out holiday greetings. But does every firm send out cards to the people they laid off a few months ago? Because that’s what CWT did.

Let’s explore how CWT messed up what should have been a great idea, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Cadwalader: Where ‘Human Resources’ Is a Term of Art”

poker.jpg* Poker chip thief sniped!!! (thank goodness) [Norwich Bulletin]

* Budweiser (Bud) beer cannot corner the market on it’s name anymore. The EU high court took away Anheuser-Busch’s famous trademark–a big win for Czech beer company “Budvar”. [Associated Press]

* The Supreme Court breathed life in to the lawsuit of former Gitmo detainees, British Muslims who want top officials (including Donald Rumsfeld) held responsible for their torture at the prison. [The Los Angeles Times]

* Bankruptcy filings are up 30% this year, and New York filings are happening at a faster rate than the rest of the Nation. Maybe this time Wall Street is suffering more than mainstreet? (doubtful). [The New York Times]

* Madoff’s lawyer John R. Wing, known as “Rusty” says Madoff’s family had nothing to do with the ponzi scheme (am I the only one who thinks of the Fonz every time I hear ponzi scheme). [The New York Times]

* A Senator says the U.S. Treasury may adopt a plan that would force automakers into bankruptcy if they can’t make it without the government’s help. [Bloomberg]

The memo below was sent to us by a tipster, with this prefatory comment: “No one really knows what the f*** the second half of the first sentence of the memo means.”

Squire Sanders Dempsey LLP SSD associate salary memo.jpg

So, dear readers: What does this language mean? The most literal interpretation is that Squire Sanders will resist associate pay raises in 2009 — e.g., it won’t go along with any “NY to 190″ movement started by another firm. The overall associate pay schedule will remain unchanged, at least at SSD.

But that’s a bit obvious. Given the dire economic conditions, reflected in Squire’s decision to lay off 30 employees last month, it makes more sense to view this language as a poorly worded attempt to announce a year-long salary freeze (i.e., not giving associates the customary January increases in base salary to reflect their greater seniority).

If it’s a pay freeze announcement, SSD isn’t the first firm to travel down this path (although they are going the farthest). McDermott Will & Emery is freezing salaries until March (at least); Bryan Cave is freezing them until April. Womble Carlyle is freezing salaries for the first half of 2009 (at least).

We have an inquiry in to Squire Sanders partner Timothy Sheeran, who sent the memo. In the meantime, your attempts to parse this language are welcome in the comments.

P.S. Presumably all the bailout-related work the firm is getting isn’t making up for lost work in other practice areas.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of salary freezes

partnership announcements.JPGIn today’s National Law Journal, Leigh Jones reports that non-equity partners at major law firms are also worried about the future. With all of the frightening career news floating around, it seems reasonable that either you are bringing in business, or you are terrified.

The upshot is that some law firms — especially those that have maintained armies of nonequity lawyers primarily to service accounts — are rethinking their business model, and some nonequity partners likely are reassessing their careers.

“Some firms are going to have to take a hard look,” said Brad Hildebrandt, chairman of Hildebrandt International, a law firm consultancy.

In good times, non-equity partners are a nice luxury for firms looking to use experienced people who generate great fees:

K&L Gates Chairman Peter Kalis said he is “very” comfortable with the equity-to-nonequity ratio at his law firm. He said the business model at K&L Gates is akin to a diamond, with the widest portion of the structure representing a group of nonequity partners who have created a more attractive service model for clients.

“Clients have little or no interest in paying for credit card-waving first- and second-year associates to fly around the country and run up bills,” he said. “What clients are interested in is paying for appropriately priced people who have both skills and substantive knowledge and who add value.”

The nonequity tier at K&L Gates, said Kalis, comprises attorneys with a wide variety of career goals — some with definite plans for full partnership and others who have less desire to develop business.

But these are not good times.

The bloated “inner tube” of non-equity partners, after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Non-Equity Partners, Trying to Hang On”

random task small.jpg* The Austin Powers “Random Task” joke is too easy here. Instead, I’ll assume that this case will only provide further evidence for TSA officials demanding that we walk through nasty airports barefoot and broken. [What About Clients?]

* If you are going to comment on commenters, then ATL’s commentariat has to be part of that discussion. [Volokh Conspiracy]

* Black-on-black criticism is a sign of progress. It’s good to remember that “the black community” is not a monolithic group. [On Being a Black Lawyer]

* Is Pass/Fail like an undercover police officer for prestige whores? [Legal Blog Watch]

* Blawg Review celebrates Bill of Rights Day. But do they celebrate all rights? I offer a cheers to the rights-happy Ninth Amendment … there are so many more rights just waiting to be discovered! [The Legal Satyricon via Blawg Review]

Thacher.jpgLast Thursday, we reported that King & Spalding might represent the last best hope for Thacher Proffitt & Wood. The Legal Times puts TPW’s situation into the clearest possible terms:

[Thacher's] overall headcount is down more than 100 lawyers compared to last year — and so are its profits. Profits per partner fell more than 22 percent in 2007 to $1.02 million, according to the Am Law 200.

The firm has had a constant stream of high-profile departures, including its vice chairman Thomas Leslie, who decamped for Greenberg Traurig in October, and Washington managing partner Richard Schaberg, who left for Hogan & Hartson’s D.C. office last month. The New York consultant and another individual familiar with the discussions say that if the deal falls through, Thacher Proffitt will likely go under.

We don’t have much more information about the K&S/TPW talks, but based on sources at Thacher, something significant is about to go down at the firm — and dissolution is one possibility.

According to our tipsters, whether or not there is a rescue by King & Spalding, Thacher’s litigation department won’t be a part of it. Word on the street is that the head of litigation is leaving TPW tomorrow.

More after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Dissolution Watch: Is TPW Finally Done?
(Stay tuned. We’ll know more tomorrow.)”

drinker biddle logo.jpgWe received multiple reports this morning that Drinker Biddle & Reath let go of approximately 20 people, all on Friday. Tipsters reported the information this morning, but a morning commenter had the best line:

Yes it’s true about DBR – on Friday afternoon. No stealth – they came around to every office – told everyone it was economy based.

Other tipsters confirmed that the dismissals were based on the economy and not associate performance. The firm would not confirm or deny the reports, as a matter of policy.

If true, axing people 13 days before Christmas is a sad sign of the times. Let’s hope that firms finish all of their 2008 associate cuts by the end of this week. Surely feelings and families should take precedence over burying layoff news in the holiday news cycle.

And, as always, good luck to all the former Drinker Biddle employees.

Earlier: Prior ATL coverage of law firm layoffs

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