On the heels of the announcement Wednesday that Duane Morris laid off seven people from its marketing department, word has emerged that the firm has laid off at least an additional 15 staff members in other departments.
The firm put the number at 15 and said almost all of those affected were in Philadelphia.
Firm Chairman John J. Soroko said Duane Morris took a look at its staffing and "eliminated a few positions." He said he would have to confirm details as to how many and which positions were affected in what offices.
Joshua M. Peck, the firm's senior media relations manager, said the purely administrative functions were across several different departments, all mainly out of the firm's Philadelphia headquarters. He said the firm didn't anticipate "more such actions."
"The firm made the decision to eliminate 15 administrative positions out of a total of more than 700 non-legal staff firmwide," Peck said. "All of the positions eliminated were in Philadelphia, except one.
"The decision reflected the firm's view that it could continue with the same very high level of service administratively, while operating on a slightly leaner basis. The positions involved were in information services, real estate and facilities, HR and finance." Duane Morris didn't comment further on the staffing cuts.
Blane R. Prescott, a consultant in the San Francisco office of Hildebrandt International, said law firms are businesses like any other and tend to bulk up in good times and adjust their size in bad economic times.
"Staff positions are definitely one area that tends to get first notice by law firms," he said. "The number of size adjustments going on in law firms is much more pervasive than is being reported."
Prescott said the type of adjustments being made by Duane Morris are very common across the country.
When asked whether staff layoffs portend attorney layoffs, Prescott said only that firms need to keep their lawyer ranks in line with their workloads. He said attorneys aren't immune to the economic issues facing law firms.
Duane Morris Chief Marketing Officer Edward M. Schechter couched the marketing department layoffs as a restructuring. The department, currently between 30 and 35 people, had been dedicated in the past few years to building internal marketing and business development systems and working to get the firm's attorneys on board. All of the work had been done in-house to develop that culture and for cost purposes, he said.
"And now, with our systems in place and being utilized every day by lawyers, we're able to respond quickly and effectively and do it with a leaner organization," Schechter said Wednesday.
While the firm has kept most of the department's work in-house in the past, it expects to outsource more marketing and related functions in the future, especially for special projects, Schechter had said.
Layoffs haven't hit Pennsylvania markets like they have in New York and elsewhere, but the state has seen occasional layoffs of attorneys, staff and secretaries.
Blank Rome saw the departure of nine associates after the firm's annual review period, Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll let go of 13 support staff and Reed Smith let go of 50 legal secretaries firmwide. Intellectual property boutique Synnestvedt & Lechner let seven staff members go a few days after four partners in the firm left for Saul Ewing.
Dechert initially had given pink slips to 13 associates because of a downturn in the real estate and structured finance practice but later said those associates were offered positions in other practice groups.
Most firms have pointed to reasons other than economics as the cause of the layoffs, but Ballard Spahr Chairman Arthur Makadon said in June that staff cuts at his firm were at least in part due to the current economy.
Makadon had said 2008 has been a good time to look at who is on the payroll. The firm found some overlap and realized that technology made some jobs "expendable," so layoffs followed, he said.
The firm could have undergone the action two years ago, but it wasn't prompted to take a closer look then because the economy was stronger, he had said.