Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The Monday Massacre

It used to be that day's end on Friday was the preferred time for employee terminations, since it was the end of the day/week and less people were around to gossip about the departure. Several years ago, there was a reconsideration of that philosophy, because of work-related incidents by disgruntled employees. The week-end was felt to be an isolating time for an impacted employee, without any resources to help deal with the job loss.

But until now, Monday has not been a big hit day.

In my continuing saga of law firm layoff news, yesterday definitely qualified as the Monday Massacre. K&L Gates began the day with a layoff of 36 attorneys and 79 staff, as reported by Above the Law. Although significant, it wasn't as bad as had been expected, K&L Gates Reduces by 36 Associates:

We hate to say it, but laying off just 4.9 percent of associates is almost something to brag about these days, with firms like Latham cutting as high as 10 percent in one fell swoop. Full memo, after the jump.

The announcement ends weeks of speculation as to expected layoffs at the firm. No word as to class levels, offices, or nature of the severance packages.
Then, Philly's Morgan Lewis has moved to Step Two in the Layoff wars, by letting go 55 attorneys and 161 staffers, after undergoing a round of layoffs earlier this year (and it's only March). See Morgan Lewis Lays off 216.

And Morgan was not alone. ATL reports that White & Case joined the fray by laying off 200 lawyers and 200 staff, White & Case Round 2:
We are now firmly into the 'second round' of law firm layoffs. We are increasingly dealing with firms who already laid people off in late 2008 or early 2009 who have to go back and make more cuts as the economic outlook continues to worsen.

White & Case, which laid off about 70 associates back in November , laid off 400 people today: 200 attorneys, and 200 staff.
These numbers, while devastating, don't even tell the full story. There have been other moves within law firms to trim the ranks of lawyers, under the guise of "performance reviews," which have been termed stealth layoffs. Starting dates for newly hired attorneys have been pushed back -- or rescinded. As the Inquirer observes, Layoffs quietly reaching higher:
But other cutbacks are taking place under the radar, and these, too, are causing their own kind of pain, financial and otherwise.

Typically, the numbers are small and scattered among firms in a piecemeal fashion.

Such was the case this year at Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads L.L.P. and Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young L.L.P., to name a couple. The firms trimmed a small number of associate positions.

At some firms, the stealth reductions, though small, seem to be reaching higher into the organizational charts. They've begun to hit so-called income partners, who are well-paid but do not have an ownership interest in their firms.

* * * *

They get no attention because laid-off partners typically do not pour out their souls to legal blogs like AboveTheLaw.com, the chatty, catty, and sometimes amusing Web site that likes nothing more than to torment the leadership of big law.
With all of this bad law news, who knows -- that man at the homeless shelter who snapped Michelle Obama's picture with his cell phone (who was deemed the new "Welfare Queen" for owning a cellphone while poor) may have been an out-of-work lawyer. See Michelle Obama serves food to D.C. poor and homeless, but...

All in all, no one, including lawyers, is immune from the economic crisis we are in the midst of.

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