The Chicago legal market suffered yet another blow on Thursday when Bell Boyd & Lloyd laid off 10 associates.
That announcement comes just two weeks after Katten Muchin Rosenman dumped 21 attorneys and Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal showed the door to 25 associates. Both those law firms have their largest offices in Chicago.
"Like many firms, Bell Boyd is facing unprecedented market conditions and we are taking measures to ensure the firm's efficient operation and growth," said managing partner Nancy Bertogio in a prepared statement. "This is a belt-tightening measure that will put us in a better position to ride out the economic storm and remain competitive in what we expect will be a challenging business environment for law firms and our clients."
All 10 of the laid-off associates worked in the Chicago office, and they came from a number of different practice areas, according to Bertogio's statement. Their employment with Bell Boyd & Lloyd will cease at the end of 2008. None of the laid-off attorneys are first-year associates.
The stalling economy has hit hardest at firms that rely heavily on real estate and capital securities and structured finance deals. Bell Boyd & Lloyd has several of those slower practice areas, including real estate, mergers and acquisitions, and capital markets.
"Firms are doing something they probably should have done more of in recent years," said Kay Hoppe, a legal consultant in Chicago. "This is a business correction."
While a number of prominent Chicago law firms have recently announced cuts, Hoppe said the city isn't being hit any harder than others by the cooling economy. Many law firms in other cities are also making reductions, even if they aren't publicizing them, she said.
"I can't imagine that there will be a firm standing at the end of this that has not made an adjustment in its work force," Hoppe said. "Chicago may be unique in its candor."
Amid the cuts, Chicago firms have kept up with lateral hiring, Hoppe said.