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…
Multiple tipsters report that Howrey laid off 35 support staffers over the course of last week. What should be particularly disturbing to attorneys is that Howrey previously conducted staff layoffs in advance of significant attorney cuts…
It’s big news, especially for law students and private practice attorneys who think that working for the government gives you unchallenged job security. Government lawyers might be somewhat buffered from the tyranny of the legal market economy, but they can still be shown the door.
And word coming out of Charles Hynes’s office is that these 15 people were let go for poor performance…
I like paying attention to what consultants say about the Biglaw market. It offers a fun little insight into what people think partners want to hear.
The ABA Journal reports that consultants at Hildebrandt think partners want to hear that they can still fire people — lots of people:
Writing for the blog of law firm consultant Hildebrandt, Lisa Smith makes an argument that outsourcing, efficiencies and increased hiring of staff attorneys could mean a different mix of staff and associate lawyers—and an overall reduction in head count in the next five to seven years.
Hilderbrandt expects an overall reduction of headcount of 17,500. But not partners! Just associates and staff attorneys…
Earlier this month, we reported on staff layoffs in the Los Angeles and Dallas offices of Jones Day. Now we’re hearing about additional layoffs at the firm, which raise the question: Could staff layoffs at JD perhaps be a firm-wide phenomenon, even if the firm only confesses to what it’s confronted with?
Yesterday the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that Jones Day cut an unspecified number of non-lawyer employees in its Cleveland office. The firm cited the old “technology allows us to be more efficient” rationale, which has been widely invoked by law firms when they cut stuff:
[T]he 117-year-old firm issued a statement saying that “universal adoption of smart phones, voicemail and email enables (and requires) lawyers to be more self-sufficient,” reducing the need to have as many support staff to perform duties now done directly by lawyers.
“Although we deeply regret the need for this action, these changes preserve our ability to best serve clients and remain one of the leading global law firms,” the company said.
[M]any of our peer competitors will come out weaker, not stronger. They may well protect their short-term financial metrics (although it will be interesting to see how we fare vs. the firms that slashed and burned), but they will pay a long-term price. Some of it is obvious: Firing staff and associates, or freezing associate salaries, or doing away with summer programs entirely makes it very clear to those groups that either that firm was not efficiently organized and managed before this crisis, or its first interest is protecting the owners’ incomes, not the various constituents that depend on the firm. While that is hardly un-American, it does tend to focus people’s minds on the fact that their firm clearly does not have their interests at the top of its agenda.
So, if Jones Day were to fire staff, would that make it “very clear” that JD isn’t efficiently organized?
The pace of law firm layoffs has apparently slowed to a crawl. We’ll go weeks between job losses at large law firms (that we know of). But, here and there, some people are still getting pushed out as firms retool for the new economy.
Sadly, legal secretaries at Dewey & LeBoeuf became the latest casualties of a layoff cycle that seems very close to its end. The firm-wide memo went out earlier today:
Beginning last week and concluding today the firm implemented a reduction in force impacting approximately 30 administrative staff positions in its Los Angeles, New York and Washington, D.C., offices.
Nobody wants to be the last person KIA in a war, and nobody wants to be laid off at the tail end of a recession. Why did Dewey make the move this late (hopefully) in the recession?
Yesterday we reported on layoffs at Howrey. Our sources told us that 100 people were axed, but a Howrey spokesperson declined to give us firm numbers.
It turns out that our sources were pretty accurate. The firm confirmed to AmLaw Daily today that it laid off 94 people: 29 associates and 65 staff, from 10 offices. A tipster says one-third of the “reduction-in-force” took place in Howrey’s D.C. office.
The rumor mill at the firm is still churning, though, claiming that Howrey has taken a number of actions to cut costs — and that the number of laid-off individuals may be higher than 94.
[A]fter a long and thorough analysis, we have concluded that these changes have made it necessary to downsize the ranks of our staff by approximately 20 employees nationwide, primarily in the secretarial area. We emphasize that the downsizing is a regretful but prudent business decision and no reflection on the skills and performance of the employees involved, who already have been informed of the specifics of this decision. The firm will provide separation pay and support services to help them transition.
It looks like another law firm just got a look at its 2009 profit numbers and found them unappealing. But at Wilson, this is the second year in a row that the new year has brought about new layoffs. In January 2009, Wilson Sonsini laid off 113 people (68 staff) because of the economy. At least this round of New Year’s layoffs isn’t as deep.
In September, Wilson froze the salaries of its secretaries, evidently the firm decided it needed to make a stronger move.
Good luck, Wilson Sonsini friends.
Read the full firm memo after the jump.
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Ed. note: The Asia Chronicles column is authored by Kinney Recruiting. Kinney has made more placements of U.S. associates, counsels and partners in Asia than any other recruiting firm in each of the past six years. You can reach them by email: email@example.com.
Deal flow has clearly picked recently up for most US associates, counsels and partners in Hong Kong/China and Singapore. We are on the phone with a lot of these folks on a daily basis, many of whom we have known for years. Further, the head of our Asia team, Evan Jowers, and Kinney’s founder and president, Robert Kinney, frequently meet in person with leading US partners in Asia to assess their needs and keep on top of the inside scoop at as many firms as possible. The need for legal recruiting help in Asia from experienced recruiters appears to be live and well. In March, Evan and Robert were in Beijing at such meetings, in April, Evan was in Hong Kong, and for half of June Evan will be in Shanghai and Hong Kong. Thus its pretty easy for us to tell when there has been an across-the-market pick up in capital markets and corporate work.
On an average day in Asia when Evan and Robert visit firms, they typically have 5 to 9 meetings a day, mostly with US partners in the market. The reason they have these meetings is not simply because Kinney makes a lot of US attorney placements in Asia and that a particular firm may have openings; instead these are just visits with friends. After years of working together as business partners, the folks at Kinney are actually these peoples’ friends. The firms Kinney work closely with in Asia (which is just about every law firm – call us if you want to know the one firm in the world we will never place anyone with again, ever, and why) look forward to the visits, or at least act like they do. After seven years in the market, many of the client partners are former associate candidates. Also, these US partners see Kinney as a very good source of market information as well, because they know how deep their contacts are in the market and how frequently they are speaking to counterparts at peer firms.
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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