Yesterday the stock market experienced its biggest drop since 2008. In the wake of the Standard & Poor’s downgrade of U.S. debt on Friday night, the Dow Jones industrial average fell by 5.6 percent and the S&P 500 fell by 6.7 percent. Global markets suffered similarly.
The market decline on Monday was only the latest in a series of slides. As noted yesterday by the New York Times, “[t]he S.& P. 500 is now down 18 percent from its April 29 peak and is nearing official bear market territory, defined as a fall of 20 percent.”
(All in all, it’s pretty depressing stuff. As I tweeted yesterday, “@DavidLat isn’t looking at his #stockmarket holdings today; instead, he’s buying more #Powerball tickets – huge jackpot!”)
What’s frightening about the latest economic turmoil is that it comes on the heels of a brutal recession that the U.S. economy has not yet fully recovered from. In the wake of the aptly named Great Recession, unemployment still exceeds 9 percent, housing markets remain weak, and government policymakers have exhausted many of the tools at their disposal for attempting to revive the economy. Interest rates are basically as low as they can go at this point; fiscal stimulus is a political no-go. What is to be done?
The steep stock market declines raise a question: Are we entering another recession — i.e., the second dip of a double-dip recession? If so, what does that mean for law firms and lawyers? (We’ve already noted the implications for the IPO market — and the lawyers who work in it.)
Layoffs at law firms have slowed to a trickle (although we still hear the occasional rumor; email us with your tips). In the public sector, however, layoffs continue — and may even accelerate, as state governments and the federal government grapple with contentious budget issues.
Today brings word of major layoffs in Connecticut. In a just-issued report, Judge Barbara Quinn, Chief Court Administrator, laid out some serious cuts to positions in the judicial branch.
I feel like I’ve stepped into a time machine that has taken me all the way back to 2009.
According to an internal memo obtained by Above the Law, the international law firm of Hogan Lovells is offering a voluntary separation program to U.S. staff. The memo, posted in full below, talks about needing to bring the firm’s support staff into alignment with overall firm needs.
The program is voluntary, but as we learned during the height of the recession, “voluntary” programs don’t always stay optional….
Although Howrey LLP officially dissolved as a partnership as of March 15, some operations continued beyond that date. But at the close of business today, the firm is going into a more complete shutdown, due to a withdrawal of bank financing.
“Last night, we received notice via email that Howrey is closing as of today, because CitiBank refuses to pay the payroll,” one source reported. “CitiBank has also refused to pay our PTO [paid time off], and our pension contributions.”
“Citibank has closed the door on Howrey operations today, more than a month before the May 9th date listed on WARN notices,” a second tipster confirmed. “No PTO, pensions will be paid out.”
UPDATE (6 PM): Citi takes issue with Howrey’s take on events. From a Citi spokesperson: “We are deeply disappointed in Howrey’s mischaracterization of the situation. Citi is not responsible for the employment practices of a client and has acted in a professional manner throughout this process.”
Law firm layoffs might be down, but they’re not out. Today we bring news of staff layoffs in the Los Angeles office of Hughes Hubbard & Reed.
We heard reports that approximately 12 out of 18 support staff members have been or will be laid off. According to these reports, eleven were laid off earlier this month, and one will be leaving in a few weeks.
In response to an inquiry from Above the Law, a spokesperson for the firm confirmed the essential accuracy of these reports. No associates were affected by the reduction, she noted.
“This was a difficult move; we had to let go of some very good people,” said Gerard F. Cruse, the firm’s Chief Operating Officer, in a statement issued to ATL. “But, despite the fact we had another record year last year, the recession has impacted our L.A. office and we couldn’t continue to be overstaffed there. We are confident about its future and are planning the L.A. office’s expansion.”
Embarcadero Center (at right): Skadden's soon-to-be-former S.F. home.
Late last week, word started to leak out that Skadden Arps plans to close its San Francisco office, by the end of June 2011. A meeting was held on Friday where the closure was announced to the office. The S.F. office is essentially being folded into the firm’s Silicon Valley outpost.
Some of the initial reactions expressed concern. “Unclear with respect to job security,” said one source. “My cynical side wonders if this isn’t layoffs in disguise,” said another.
But further examination of the situation suggests that this is, as some might say, no big deal….
Welcome back from your long weekend. I trust everybody is ready to put in a lot of hard work through the holiday season in order to finish the year off strong.
Ah, what’s the point? Based on the early bonus news, it seems that Biglaw managers are going to go with stingy bonus payments for the second year in a row. And while we’ve reported that hours appear to be up this year over last year, hours aren’t back to 2007 levels.
If firms are going to keep bonuses at 2009 levels until their profits get back to 2007 levels, well, then maybe it’s time to kick back and do some shopping on Cyber Monday…
In a land that is right here and in a time that is right now, a technology has arisen so powerful that it can replace basic human document review. Is it time to bow down before our new robot overlords?
First, here’s a little story about me: my life in the legal world began as a paralegal. My first case was a GIANT patent infringement case that was already six years old and had involved as many as five companies, multiple US courts, the ITC and an international standards committee. I knew nothing about any of this.
On my first day, my supervisor (a paralegal with at least eight other cases driving her crazy) sat me down in front of a Concordance database with a 100,000+ patents and patent file histories. “Code these,” she said. I learned that “coding”, for the purposes of this exercise, meant manually typing the inventor’s name, the title of the patent, the assignee, the file date, and other objective data for each document. I worked on that project – and only that project – for at least the first six months of my job. After a week or so, time began to blur.
What I know, in retrospect and with absolutely certainty, is that as time began to blur, so did my judgment. So did my attention to detail. If you could tell me that I did not make at least one mistake a day – one inconsistent spelling, one reversed day and month, one incorrectly spaced title – I frankly would need to see your evidence. I would not believe it. The human mind is trainable but it is not a machine.
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We currently have a number of active openings for associate roles at US and UK firms in HK / China, Singapore and two new in-house openings. As always, please feel free to reach out to us at email@example.com in order to get details of current openings in Asia, as well as to discuss the Asia markets in general and what we expect for openings later this year. Our Evan Jowers and Robert Kinney will be in Beijing the week of March 25 and Evan Jowers will be in Hong Kong the week of April 1, if you would like to meet them in person.
The US associate openings we have in law firms are in the usual areas of M&A, cap markets, FCPA / white collar litigation, finance, and project finance. The most urgent of our top tier (top 15 US or magic circle) law firm openings in Asia (among many other firm openings that we have in Asia) are as follows:
• 2nd to 5th year mandarin fluent M&A associates needed in Beijing and Hong Kong at several firms;
• Korean fluent 2nd to 4th year cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 5th year Japanese fluent M&A associates needed in Tokyo;
• 4th to 6th year mandarin fluent cap markets associate needed in Hong Kong;
• 2nd to 4th year M&A / cap markets mix associate needed in Singapore.
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