ALM Properties, Inc.
Page printed from: http://www.law.com
Select 'Print' in your browser menu to print this document.
Big Wave of Layoffs Hits HellerFriday is the last day for most of the remaining Heller Ehrman staff, a source has confirmed. Affected employees were notified by a Thursday e-mail from the dissolution committee, which was largely the same as an e-mail sent last week, when at least 100 employees were laid off. While it is unclear how many employees are being laid off, employees in the firm estimate the number to be in the hundreds.
The Recorder2008-10-17 12:00:00 AM
Today is the last day for most of the remaining Heller Ehrman staff, a source confirmed on Thursday.
Affected employees were notified by a Thursday morning e-mail, which was obtained by The Recorder and which was widely posted on the Internet. The e-mail from the dissolution committee was largely the same as an e-mail sent out last Friday, when at least 100 employees were laid off. While it is unclear how many employees are being laid off today, employees in the firm estimate the number to be in the hundreds.
The e-mail said that staff would receive health insurance through the end of the month, but it is unclear whether insurance for current or former employees will continue beyond that point.
"The firm is devoting intense effort to negotiate a continuation of benefits, including COBRA coverage, and we will keep former employees informed by postings on the firm's internet site," the e-mail promised. As the e-mail noted, the front page of Heller Ehrman's Web site has been wiped clean of all but one link to a list of placement opportunities for staff and attorneys.
Various groups have been hit by the layoffs, including some secretaries and some associates, a secretary at the firm said.
"These guys haven't been in practice long enough to have a lot of experience," the secretary said of the first- and second-year associates she knew who received the e-mail.
Members of the dissolution committee who were contacted either did not return phone calls or would not say how many were affected.
Being laid off comes as something of a relief, the secretary said; the firm's San Francisco offices are increasingly being stripped. The secretary had been in the middle of printing a document on Thursday only to find that the machine had been removed before she had a chance to pick up the printout. "It's absurd," the secretary said. There is now only one photocopier on every other floor. The firm occupies seven floors of its 333 Bush St. headquarters in San Francisco.
"I have to run down to the ninth floor to get mail and look through 18 bins," the secretary said. "We don't have any records people. They took away our coffee machines. Our cafeteria is gone."
At least one employee who is remaining with the firm did not receive an e-mail about the layoffs. The employee's boss, after being directly asked by the person, confirmed that the staffer had not been laid off.
"It was news to me until I went on the blogs," the employee said.
While the number of employees affected is unclear, the secretary in the San Francisco office had spoken to 17 others, all but one of whom said they are being laid off. There were 32 secretaries in the San Francisco office as of Thursday, according to the firm's internal Web site, the secretary said. She said the same list counted one records person, five paralegals, 73 attorneys and two information technology staffers.
The firm expects all lawyers and client matters to have left the firm by Nov. 26, after which there will be less than 100 administrative employees remaining to wind down the firm, a source at the firm said. That group may continue to work into 2009.
Last Friday, more than 100 employees at Heller Ehrman received an e-mail informing them that they would not be paid beyond that day. The letter, signed "The Dissolution Committee," said the firm's banks, Bank of America and Citibank, forced the layoffs. Thursday's e-mail gave a similar explanation.
The layoffs have raised the question of whether the firm will meet its apparent obligations under California state law -- to pay out accrued vacation time -- and the federal WARN Act, which mandates 60 days' warning before large layoffs.
The firm had voted to dissolve on Sept. 26.
Partners have been making moves steadily. This week, 20 attorneys, 14 of them partners, joined Davis Wright Tremaine. Most of the group was in Seattle.
Five Bay Area securities litigators, led by that group's chairwoman, Sara Brody, decamped to Sidley Austin.
Fifteen partners in bankruptcy, restructuring and real estate practices went to Jones Day, among them Peter Benvenutti, who leads Heller's dissolution team.
Five more partners went to Goodwin Procter, four of them in New York, one in Silicon Valley.
Associates have not had as much success. Many of the moving groups were only able to bring one associate per partner, sometimes less, which leaves many out in the cold. A number of firms that picked up partners this week and last have said they're still interviewing associates and final hiring decisions have not yet been made.