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White and Case logo.JPGThe first news started to leak this morning about some terrible news at a top firm:

White & Case [is] currently calling people and laying them off. I haven’t heard anything in regards to scope, but [I] hear that it’s big.

Now that White & Case has had time to tell all of the affected associates, they are ready to talk about how deeply the cuts went. A firm spokesperson tells us:

As part of its planning for 2009, White & Case LLP is reviewing its global operations against current and anticipated market conditions and expected client needs. While the Firm anticipates a strong 2008, with significant revenue growth across our globally diverse network, we are exercising prudent business judgment and taking several steps in advance of what is likely to be a significantly weakened global economy in 2009.

Among these actions, the Firm is reducing its global legal and nonlegal headcount by about 3% from current levels, or notifying employees that they are at risk of redundancy. These reductions are being driven in large part by a decline in attrition rates. Those who have been asked to leave will receive a competitive severance package.

“We are living in a time of unique economic challenges, and well-managed, successful businesses, including White & Case, must assess their operations in light of current market realities,” said White & Case chairman Hugh Verrier. “We believe this is a necessary step to adjust to the global economic downturn and to ensure a strong, long-term future for the Firm.”

Upon information and belief — the firm did not give us specific numbers — 70 associates nationwide were let go.

Read about some associate reaction after the jump.

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Nationwide Layoff Watch: White & Case Brings Layoffs into the Vault Top 20″

Chicago skyline.JPGMore bad news from Chicago today. The National Law Journal is reporting that the well known construction boutique, Stein, Ray & Harris, laid off a third of their associates:

The firm laid off four of its 14 associates this month after hiring seven attorneys earlier this year in anticipation of an increase in construction litigation linked to the economic downturn, said Robert Harris, a partner at the firm. The jump in such litigation “hasn’t materialized,” though it’s early in the cycle and that may change, he said.

Big firm lawyers, small firm lawyers, it’s bad for lawyers all over Chicago.

Clearly, the only safe job in Chicago is whoever works for Oprah.

… And attorneys at Kirkland & Ellis.

Small construction firm, slammed by economy, lays off nearly a third of its associates []

Earlier: Nationwide Layoff Watch: Bell Boyd Confirms Layoffs

Nationwide Layoff Watch: Jenner & Block Cuts … Partners

ASU law brawler.JPGAlex Botsios is a 1L at Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Last week, he left a window open overnight, and someone snuck into his Tempe apartment to steal his stuff.

From KPHO:

ASU student Alex Botsios said he had no problem giving a nighttime intruder his wallet and guitars.

When the man asked for Botsios’ laptop, however, the first-year law student drew the line.

“I was like, ‘Dude, no — please, no!” Botsios said. “I have all my case notes… that’s four months of work!”

That’s when Botsios showed him exactly how important case notes are to a law school student. He wrestled away the intruder’s baseball bat, punched the guy repeatedly, and called the police.

Botsios just had a bruised knuckle and a few scratches, while the intruder looked like this. He had to be taken for stitches before being booked for armed robbery and kidnapping.

Alex Botsios, congratulations. You are now an official ATL Law Student of the Day.

Student Pummels Would-Be Robber [KPHO]

Ellen Wayne Dean of Career Services Columbia Law School.jpgUniversities are not immune to the economic downturn. Endowments are taking hits; hiring freezes are likely.

And maybe layoffs, too. From a tipster:

CLS Dean of Career Services Ellen Wayne has just been unceremoniously dumped from her post after nearly 20 lackluster years on the job (she was a constant source of complaints by students). She’s already been removed from staff listings and from the school’s internal telephone and email directory.

We tried emailing Dean Wayne at her Columbia address and received an automated reply: “I am out of the office.” Indeed.

[T]hey’ve not managed to erase all traces yet…. Her picture remains up on the front page of their employer section. No official email from the school to its students yet.

We reached out to the school for comment. Elizabeth Schmalz, executive director for Communications and Public Affairs at CLS, responded via email: “It is university policy not to discuss employment matters in public. Thanks for writing.”

So it’s not clear yet what happened to Dean Wayne. Is she being blamed for weak on-campus interviewing this year? Was she somebody’s target in Assassins?

Our original tipster wasn’t a fan of Dean Wayne. But different CLS sources had more positive views.

Check them out, after the jump.

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Shearman logo.JPGShearman & Sterling declined to comment on the rumors of “performance based” layoffs we reported on, yesterday. However, they did want to comment on our characterization of their faltering corporate practice:

The current environment has presented significant opportunities for Shearman & Sterling across its platform. We have been involved in many of the most complex situations that have arisen in recent months and continue to be active on a large number of those transactions throughout the world, including the sale of Merrill Lynch to Bank of America, Allianz’s sale of Dresdner to Commerzbank, numerous engagements for financial institutions and hedge funds arising under the Lehman insolvency (including our worldwide representation of Bank of America), and Hypo Real Estate in its German restructuring. We also have seen a substantial increase in the demand for our litigation and international arbitration practices. In response to your comments, activity levels in our Capital Markets practice have indeed slowed somewhat, as they have at all major firms, but other practices, as evidenced above, are very busy. Consistent with our normal practice, we are actively allocating associate staffing to areas of the firm where there is the greatest need.

So, there’s that. We’ll try to keep on top of how Shearman’s performance reviews go as they get started over the next couple of weeks.

Earlier: Nationwide (Stealth) Layoff Watch: Shearman & Sterling and Loeb & Loeb

Alston Bird retirement watch.JPGLast week, older support staff at Alston & Bird received a memo encouraging them to think about the future:

We are pleased to introduce the Alston & Bird Staff Early Retirement Incentive Program. This Program is offered in response to requests from many of you and in our effort to continue to improve our staffing ratios in all offices. The Program is completely voluntary and is available to any paralegal, secretary or staff employee who has been employed by Alston & Bird for at least 10 years and is at least 55 years of age. If you qualify and are interested in participating in the Program, you must sign the Acknowledgement form at the end of this memo and return it to Michael Stephens no later than 5:00 p.m. on Tuesday, November 26, 2008.

Employees who accept this offer may continue their employment through December 31, 2008. Employees can choose one of the following two benefit options, with payments beginning after termination of employment on December 31, 2008 (or such earlier date as may be agreed upon by the employee and the Firm).

“Completely voluntary?” How many people believe that the early retirement program is being offer because of overwhelming staff desire to “improve staffing ratios?”

For staffers with over 20 years at the firm, the early retirement plan offers 23 weeks of salary, or 16 weeks of salary plus a $450 health care subsidy.

Sound fair? Let’s fast forward to the end of the message:

Once again, please note that the deadline for electing to participate in the Program closes at 5:00 p.m. on November 26, 2008. The Firm may not offer this or any other early retirement or similar program again at a later date. If we do not receive an adequate number of responses in certain areas, the firm may need to take additional steps to adjust our staffing ratios.

An “adequate number of responses” reminds me of the scene in Gladiator when Commodus suffocates his father under the guise of a hug. How callous do you have to be to essentially threaten 55-year-old people who have worked for your company for over a decade with “additional steps to adjust our staffing ratios?” I know we’re in the midst of a serious financial crisis, but there’s a way to be a person about these things.

Predictably, older staff, younger staff, even attorneys at A&B are freaking out. A tipster reports:

Older staff is in panic. Get pressured into package now, or get laid off later with nothing. (Wonder how they’re going to fill those extra 2 floors they just leased in the NY office in this economic environment?) Nothing equivalent for lawyers yet, but A&B is very youth-worshiping, so it’s just a matter of time I expect.

We dig deeper into the “incentive program” and post it in full after the jump.

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adult baby.jpg* SCOTUS weighs case that could result in a lot more travel for crime lab experts. [New York Times]

* Thirtieth child abandoned under Nebraska’s safe-haven law, intended to protect unwanted newborns from being abandoned. The “child” dropped off is an 18-year-old girl. The Legislature convenes Friday to change the law, so drop off those unwanted teens ASAP. [Associated Press]

* Deja vu. As we mentioned before, Proposition 8 has led to three backlash lawsuits. Now the California Supreme Court will decide whether a gay marriage ban needs to go before the legislature before going to voters. [Washington Post]

* Update on former ATL Ex-Judge of the Day: Richard Sasso. He testified yesterday that he used to take Vicodin and drink wine before court. [Newsday]

* This will keep the Bush administration busy until January. Judge Henry Kennedy rules in favor of private groups who want the White House to recover millions of missing e-mails. [Associated Press]

McDermott logo.JPGWe’ve gotten the first hard numbers of the 2008 bonus season, in part. McDermott Will & Emery has announced that they will pay their associates the bonus advance they were expecting. A firm-wide email announced the relatively positive news:

December Bonus Advances: As we have previously communicated, the following payments will be made in mid-December to Associates who are on target to receive a bonus: (a) $10,000 for Associates in the class of 2006 or 2007, (b) $15,000 for Associates in the class of 2004 or 2005 and (c) $20,000 for Associates in all other classes. The determination of whether an Associate is on target for a bonus will be made by the ACC using the CPAs and the general evaluation criteria already described in prior presentations and communications by the Compensation Committee. For some Associates, the December payment may be the only bonus the Associate receives. The bonus determined by the ACC to be paid in March, 2009 will be reduced by any advance received in December.

That’s good news to the attorneys that are on target to make their hours. That’s almost everybody, right? Many people have pointed out that bonuses might be depressed this year, not because firms will be offering less money, but because many associates are struggling to make their hours.

The other wrinkle here is that MWE is leaving the door open on what their “final” bonus package will look like. They could match last year’s market, or not. There is a lot of time to read the market between now and March.

Still, $10K – $20K just in time for holiday shopping is a good thing for those on track. And if you’re low on hours, this you at least know for sure that there is at least some money available to you if you can make up the hours in the fourth quarter.

Congrats and good luck, MWE associates.

Read the full memo after the jump.

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Havard Lampoon Cass Sunstein.JPG* The Harvard Lampoon years of possible SCOTUS nominee Cass Sunstein are revealed. [Holly Hullabaloos]

* Voodoo > Economics. [Law and More]

* Remember that part of American history when Texas was its own country? Wasn’t that cool? Couldn’t Texas and the rest of America just have an amicable, no-fault divorce? Texas can keep custody of Oklahoma while America gets to repossess everybody from Austin. [Legal Pad]

* An IP Blawg Review. Or: a Blawg Review for lawyers with jobs.

[IP Think Tank via Blawg Review]

horsemen come to higher education.JPGThis weekend, the Times reported that the economic crisis is taking a toll on University endowments:

VC firms typically make “capital calls” to these investors whenever they need more money to pump into their startups. However now rumors are circulating that Columbia University’s endowment fund is illiquid — that is, it can’t raise the cash it needs to fund current commitments.? Harvard, meanwhile, is reportedly trying to sell a third of its private equity portfolio at a steep discount in a “secondary offering.”

One of my favorite pieces of useless information is that the largest “endowment” for a non-profit institution is the Catholic Church. The second largest? Harvard University. So I’m pretty sure that Harvard trying to sell off a 3rd of anything is the little known fifth horseman of the apocalypse:

When the Lamb opened the fifth seal I saw before me a Crimson horse. And its rider was named Deregulation, and Consumer Fear and Capital Retreat followed close behind. They were given power over the rich of the earth to kill by the crunch, the short-sell, and the capital call.

The point is that private universities, and therefore many top law schools, will have to start dealing with the after effects of the financial crisis very soon. Hiring freezes and financial aid restrictions could soon follow.

But public institutions could feel the pain immediately.

Read about how the economic crisis is effecting one public school after the jump.

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Morgan Lewis.JPGOn Friday, while much of the Thelen news was still focused on Nixon Peabody feasting on Thelen refugees, we heard an interesting tip from people at Morgan Lewis:

I hear we have acquired all or most of Thelen’s corporate practice? I haven’t seen any official announcements but I hear that a couple floors below me is total chaos.

Mmmm … chaos.

Today we’ve gotten a (sadly) less chaotic number of new hires:

Morgan Lewis’s New York office picked up 17 attorneys from Thelen. An email was sent Friday.

But are they heavy hitters?

I am aware of a larger group that consists of the really big hitters at Thelen in the construction group. Dekker, Buoncristiani, Heisse et al with huge books of business for core clients like Bechtel. Pillsbury has extended an offer to all these people, included Counsel and associates for a total of about 45 attorneys for mainly the SF Office [Some in DC and NY]

Strangely, MLB has rebuffed repeated requests to confirm or deny how many Thelen people they are bringing on (if any).

But once again, Thelen-East attorneys seem to be doing a lot better than their West Coast brethren. On the flip side, this weekend in NYC was cold and miserable while I’m sure the Sun once again bestowed its light and grace upon Californians. So they have that going for them.

Earlier: Nixon Peabody Picks Up 90 Thelen Attorneys (This is Different From a Merger How?)

Associate Bonus Watch: Morgan Lewis Pushes Back Bonus Decisions

Shearman logo.JPGWe’ve been hearing reports all morning about some news leaking around the offices at Shearman & Sterling. One tipster collects the potentially bad news in a clear way:

[M]id and senior-level associates that would in normal economic conditions have left any way are being asked to leave. In addition, Shearman’s senior management has advised Partners to be strict in reviews in the upcoming review process (scheduled for the coming weeks) for all levels of associates (not only mid- and senior-levels).

Apparently, the firm is determined that any layoffs get reported as “performance based” attrition rather than full-on layoffs. Sources suggest that firm leadership is still smarting over the reputation hit they took when they laid off people, back in 2001.

The firm has not responded to a request for comment.

Whatever they want to call it, there seems to be good reason for Shearman associates to be worried over the next couple of weeks. We’ve also learned that Shearman’s Capital Markets practice is not doing well. A tipster reports:

Business in Capital Markets has slowed dramatically over the past several months. Junior associates from Capital Markets have been temporarily staffed on litigation matters.

We know that Capital Markets practice groups are slow all over. But staffing corporate attorneys on litigation work suggests that there are larger problems with Shearman’s corporate practices.

Stealth layoffs at Loeb & Loeb, and the firm’s response, after the jump.

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