Staff Layoffs

If you’re a lawyer who managed to make your way into a large law firm, congratulations. For attorneys, the world of Biglaw seems to be somewhat stable. Revenue and profits are up by modest amounts, and it has been a while since we’ve seen major lawyer layoffs (setting aside the collapse of Dewey & LeBoeuf, of course).

Things have not been so happy for staff. Over the past year or so, we’ve covered staff layoffs at several prominent Biglaw firms. Many of these reductions appear to be fueled by either outsourcing or improvements in technology that allow firms to get by with fewer staff.

The latest firm with news of staff layoffs — and unconfirmed reports of lawyer layoffs — is Fish & Richardson. Fish is a leading intellectual property shop, and the world of IP litigation certainly seems busy these days. But maybe it’s not busy enough?

Let’s get the details on the recent cuts at Fish….

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The law firm of Fulbright & Jaworski is a leader in many fields — at least 31 of them, according to the latest Chambers rankings. In addition to recognizing Fulbright as a leading firm in 31 categories, the influential Chambers guide also named 99 Fulbright lawyers as leading individuals in their practice areas.

Fulbright excels in other areas well — for example, social media. It is one of the few major law firms that knows how to use Twitter.

Alas, these days the firm is also a leader in a less appealing arena: staff layoffs. Last October, the firm laid off at least a dozen employees.

And now it seems that more reductions might be on the way. Could Fulbright be trying to slim itself down in advance of a merger with another firm?

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(And could a merger be in the works?)

John Edwards

* What information Dewey know about the ongoing criminal investigation that’s being conducted by the Manhattan District Attorney’s office? From the sound of it, ex-chairman Steven Davis’s LeBoeuf may be cooked. [Am Law Daily (reg. req.)]

* Dewey know when to admit defeat? A spokesman for the failing firm has insisted that it’s “not formally closed.” Great, because that’ll certainly make it easier to prepare for the involuntary bankruptcy filing that’s in the works. [Reuters]

* Meanwhile, D&L amended its WARN notice with the New York State Department of Labor to raise its total employee count by 100, for a grand total of 533 — 433 of whom have been laid off thus far. [Bloomberg]

* “The defense wasn’t sexy, but the defense doesn’t want sexy. It wants an acquittal.” John Edwards’s legal team rested its case yesterday without calling any of the major players involved to testify. [Associated Press]

* Show me your papers: the California Supreme Court will be deciding whether a law license should be granted to an illegal immigrant who’s already been certified by the State Bar of California. [Los Angeles Times]

* Thank you, Jesus! Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law now has an additional $4M in its collection plate to put toward a new building thanks to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. [National Law Journal]

Based on recent remarks by current and former leadership at Dewey & LeBoeuf, it seems that the firm is going to end with a whimper, not a bang. The current plan apparently involves no bankruptcy filing or dissolution vote, but just the defection of one partner after another, until nobody is left.

And the partner departures continue. As we mentioned in Morning Docket, for example, Greenberg Traurig just picked up about 50 Dewey lawyers over in Poland, to form Greenberg Traurig Grzesiak. Meanwhile, here in New York, Sutherland Asbill & Brennan has added insurance litigatrix Ellen Dunn, former co-head of D&L’s U.S. litigation practice, to its ranks.

While the partner stars realign themselves, back here on earth, last night brought bad news for former Dewey associates and staff….

double red triangle arrows Continue reading “Dewey Have the Ability To Keep Paying Severance? Apparently Not”

Will Rielle Hunter take the stand?

* Dewey need to declare bankruptcy yet? While the delusional firm has “no plans to file bankruptcy,” partner defectors and retirees are being advised to contact personal bankruptcy lawyers ASAP. [New York Times]

* When Dewey become a part of the great unwashed? When you’re being sued for $300K in unpaid janitors’ bills. But that claim’s going to be nickel and dimed, just like the firm’s partner guarantees. [Businessweek]

* Maybe Greenberg Traurig ditched its merger talks with D&L because they had problems of their own. The firm apparently laid off staff to achieve a 4-to-1 attorney-secretary ratio. [Daily Business Review (sub. req.)]

* The judge presiding over the John Edwards campaign finance trial denied a motion to dismiss the charges against the former presidential candidate. Like all the rest of us, Judge Eagles probably just wants to see if he and his baby mama, Rielle Hunter, will take the stand. [MSNBC]

* In the wake of the Elizabeth Warren controversy, many have wondered what goes into law school hiring decisions. Generally, they look for good teachers, but being 1/32 Native American certainly helps. [ABC News]

* Try to bring up ethics charges on the Wisconsin justice who allegedly choked a bitch in chambers, and you might find your career as Chairman of the state’s Judicial Commission in a stranglehold. [Telegraph Herald]

How... do you keep changing your race?

* Dewey seriously have one chairman again? Good Lord, this law firm is literally falling apart! Martin Bienenstock had “no plans to file bankruptcy” because he knew he was taking the first life raft off this sinking ship. [WSJ Law Blog]

* When Dewey WARN people? When it’s already too late. In case you missed it last night, the firm was served with its first suit following its en-masse layoffs. The more the merrier, because it’s a class action. [Bloomberg; WSJ Law Blog]

* Elizabeth Warren can’t decide whether she’s white or Native American. Apparently it depends on her geographic location, because she was white at UT Law, but a minority while at Penn Law. [Boston Globe]

* Racial profiling still ain’t easy, but Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio “will fight this to the bitter end.” The Department of Justice has filed a civil rights suit against the no-nonsense Sheriff and his department. [Associated Press]

* New Jersey Governor Chris Christie must be gearing up for his inevitable 2016 presidential run, because yesterday he vetoed an online insurance marketplace required by the Affordable Care Act. [New York Times]

* Syracuse Law recently broke ground on a $90M building that will serve as its new home. May political plagiarizers continue to grace the law school’s halls for years and years to come. [National Law Journal]

The revolving door continues to spin, quite furiously, at the rapidly collapsing Dewey & LeBoeuf. We mentioned some of the latest partner departures in last night’s post (which we updated again this morning).

These are major defections, which strike at the heart of what was left of the firm. In case there was any doubt after last Friday’s WARN Act notice or yesterday’s big layoffs, it may soon be time to stick a fork in LeBoeuf.

So what’s the latest word on who is going where?

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On Friday, we broke the news of Dewey & LeBoeuf issuing a WARN Act notice to its U.S. employees. As explained by the U.S. Department of Labor, the WARN law generally requires an employer “to provide notice 60 days in advance of covered plant closings and covered mass layoffs.”

We noted, however, that employees shouldn’t be lulled into complacency by the 60-day requirement. As Elie wrote, “Dewey employees shouldn’t expect to just show up to work every day until Independence Day. Remember, we’ve learned from the Heller dissolution and other firms’ dissolutions that things tend to happen very quickly.”

Very quickly indeed. We are now hearing reports that this Friday, May 11, will be the last day for an unknown number of D&L employees….

As usual with the fast-moving Dewey story, we have multiple UPDATES, including some from Tuesday morning, after the jump.

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The U.S. employees of Dewey & LeBoeuf received a letter today that many of them have been expecting for a long time.

It was a note warning people to prepare for the worst. It was a letter finally admitting to firm employees that “it is possible that adverse developments could ultimately result in the closure of the firm.”

So, now we’re on notice…

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Thus far, the story of Dewey & LeBoeuf has been told primarily from the perspective of lawyers. On the whole, the coverage has been quite partner-focused, centered on which partners are defecting to which rival law firms. There has been some discussion, but not a huge amount, of the plight of associates.

There has been even less discussion of the support staff. But if Dewey goes under, staffers will also lose their jobs. And in this day and age of law firms slashing staff, secretaries and paralegals may have a harder time finding new positions than attorneys.

Here is one paralegal’s perspective on what’s going on at D&L….

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