Layoffs

Were the layoffs at Weil Gotshal the start of a Biglaw trend? You be the judge. In the days and weeks after the Weil winnowing, Jones Day “eliminated” about 65 staff positions, Goodwin Procter shuttered its San Diego office, 16 secretaries were the victims of “reductions” at Winston & Strawn, WilmerHale allegedly conducted stealth attorney layoffs in its IP litigation department, and Davis Polk offered support staff some beautiful buyouts. Heck, even LexisNexis and BARBRI decided to get into the layoffs game.

Today, just as we roll into the weekend, we’ve got even more layoff news. One of the biggest law firms in Connecticut, one that last conducted layoffs at the start of the recession, is handing out walking papers to as many as 40 of its attorneys and staff members. Which firm, and why?

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Reema Bajaj

* As “one of the most respected appellate judges of her generation,” Patricia Wald, the first woman appointed to the D.C. Circuit, was awarded the Medal of Freedom. Congrats! [Blog of Legal Times]

* Biglaw firms saw “anemic” growth in the first half of 2013, and according to the latest Wells Fargo survey, some “minor cuts” are expected in headcount. Well, that’s just great. [Am Law Daily]

* “It is a period of significant change for the firm. That requires some hard decisions.” Patton Boggs has already conducted layoffs, so what could possibly be next for the firm? [Wall Street Journal (sub. req.)]

* Sorry guys, but it looks like Reema Bajaj’s bajayjay will be out of session for the foreseeable future. The attorney accused of exchanging sex for office supplies has agreed to a three-year suspension of her law license. [Chicago Tribune]

* Rather than be bought out by InfiLaw (it could “diminish the value of their degrees”), Charleston School of Law alumni are trying to organize a merger with a public school. Good luck with that. [Greenville News]

* Nebraska will offer a doctorate in space law, which makes sense because… f**kin’ magnets, how do they work? But really, we’re willing to bet it’s because of all of the crop circles in the state. [Miami Herald]

* No joke necessary: This law school claims its rights are being infringed upon because it has to disclose how many of its graduates — 7 percent at last count — have passed the bar. [WSJ Law Blog (sub. req.)]

* Two of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s friends were indicted on obstruction of justice charges. If convicted, the pair will face up to 20 years in prison, and they don’t even have a Facebook fan page to show for it. [Bloomberg]

One Liberty Plaza: a tower of dark secrets?

It’s official: Cleary Gottlieb is no longer boring. The elite and esteemed firm is now exciting as well.

In the past few months, Cleary has generated enough drama to fuel a law firm soap opera — think “All My Associates” or “The Biglaw and the Beautiful” (on second thought, save the latter title for Davis Polk). Cleary has witnessed a mysterious partner departure, support staff vanishing into the ether, and a summer associate dismissed due to his disturbing past.

Yesterday, the drama at One Liberty Plaza continued. A terminated employee rose from the cyber-grave to haunt the living — before he was electronically exorcised by the powers-that-be….

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I’m not here this week; instead, I’m heading out to California to the ABA annual meeting. At the conference, the ABA will discuss the changing nature of legal education.

The ABA, and law schools in general, have been really slow to respond to the new realities of legal education. There’s institutional resistance to changing the way things have always been done.

Arguably, a company like BARBRI can be much more flexible in response to student needs. And, as many tipsters have told us over the past couple of weeks, BARBRI is making some changes. Which is kind of a nice way of saying that BARBRI laid off some people.

I recently spoke with BARBRI president Mike Sims about these moves…

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Kristina Tsamis shares some career advice for JD/MBAs from a panel discussion hosted by Duke Law in conjunction with other peer law schools.

We spend a lot of time discussing the dismal employment outcomes for JD grads. Things aren’t so rosy for MBA graduates either. To talk about a dual JD/MBA degree in this context seems like a double fail — a one-two punch of more work and potentially more debt in exchange for the same sad outcome.

Enter the panelists of How to Use the JD/MBA Degree in Business and Entrepreneurship: all JD/MBA graduates who touted the usefulness of a dual degree during a discussion hosted by Duke Law in conjunction with other peer law schools. The panelists centered their advice on four main areas: what to focus on while pursuing the dual degree, how to select a good mentor, how to interview well, and how to stop being risk-averse.

1. Maintain the Right Focus as a JD/MBA student

That class in early English case law will leave you painfully ill-equipped for the modern practice of law. But there are some courses you should be paying attention to, both on the JD and MBA side.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

The Layoff Lady moves beyond Biglaw.

When times are tough for law firms, others suffer too. If a firm as prestigious and profitable as Weil Gotshal is conducting open and notorious layoffs, and rival firms are conducting stealth layoffs, rest assured that other creatures in the Biglaw ecosystem — technology vendors, legal recruiters, Mercedes dealers — are feeling pain.

Take media outlets that cover law firms. American Lawyer Media recently cut at least 35 positions from its editorial and production staffs, amounting to about 7 percent of headcount within those two groups. Kevin Michielsen, chief operating officer of ALM, said the layoffs resulted from the company’s shift to being a “digital-first” operation, not cost cutting. But considering that ALM labors under a nine-figure debt load, cost cutting might not be a bad idea.

But the Am Law layoffs pale in comparison to the cuts over at LexisNexis, at least in terms of raw numbers. The company didn’t provide numbers, but the estimates might surprise you….

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No change to spare for Quinn Emanuel associates.

Earlier this month, when we wrote about Cahill Gordon’s summer bonuses, we floated a question about mid-year bonuses at other firms. Specifically, we wondered if Quinn Emanuel, a top-flight litigation shop that paid such bonuses last year, would do so again.

After hearing rumors of no mid-year bonuses at QE, we reached out to the firm for comment. Founding partner John Quinn confirmed the reports, correctly noting that the market has not paid spring or summer bonuses this year.

John Quinn also denied various other rumors about Quinn Emanuel, to which we now turn….

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A great cover — click to enlarge.

Despite the problems and challenges facing large law firms, making partner at a Biglaw firm remains a big deal. As an old friend told me a few years ago, comparing his pre- and post-partnership existences, “My life has been transformed. I feel like I’ve been let into a special club. Overnight, the same people treat me in completely different ways.”

My friend isn’t the only partner who feels like he got kissed by a princess and turned from a frog into a prince. Others recognize the transformative power of making partner as well. In the words of our very own Anonymous Partner, “You now occupy a new professional status, and the nature of making partner is such that no matter how badly you screw up the rest of your life, you have accomplished something very rare. It is a life milestone, on par with getting married or winning the lottery in terms of its immediate alteration of your identity.”

Comparing making partner to winning the lottery is apt: many lottery winners don’t live happily ever after (as brilliantly captured by this Onion article, Powerball Winners Already Divorced, Bankrupt). A fascinating new piece in The New Republic goes behind the scenes at one major law firm and shows that being a Biglaw partner in the twenty-first century isn’t all peaches and cream. In fact, aspects of being a partner sound as appealing as rotten fruit (and this isn’t just sour grapes)….

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Would you pack it all in if offered a lot of money?

This isn’t your father’s Davis Polk. The venerable firm, known for uber-white shoes and super-blue-chip clients, is changing.

(Let’s hope the firm maintains its commitment to hotness in hiring. Someone has to care about beauty in Biglaw, right?)

Under managing partner Tom Reid, DPW has become energized, entrepreneurial, and expansionary. Since Reid took the reins two years ago, the firm has pushed into new areas and gone on a lateral partner hiring spree — a sign that DPW is no longer waiting for work to come its way, but seeking out business more actively.

So maybe it shouldn’t be shocking to learn that DPW, given this growing focus on the bottom line, is following the trend of offering buyouts to reduce the ranks of support staff….

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Overcapacity. The Biglaw word du jour. Too many lawyers working in Biglaw to meet demand. Or is it too many lawyers in Biglaw to foist on that subset of clients still willing to pay those rates that guarantee profits-per-partner increases? Either way, the word is out. Biglaw is suffering from overcapacity. Something must be done.

Some firms will undoubtedly send out the message that every single one of their lawyers is in great demand. Debate among yourselves whether or not these firms are “stealth layoff” candidates.

Other firms have already taken action (e.g., Weil Gotshal) — sweeping, public action. Hopefully they did not enjoy what they were “forced” to do too much. The first cut is the hardest, as they say, and who can say that one of these firms won’t decide to wield the layoff katana like a sake-infused samurai?

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