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200 Lose Jobs at Morrison & FoersterThe bad news continues for San Francisco Bay Area associates and legal staffers. Morrison & Foerster cut 53 lawyers and 148 staff Wednesday, adding to the mounting toll of out-of-work legal professionals. The firm issued a statement saying the layoffs were meant "to align our firm with client needs in this extraordinary economic downturn." Associates and staff from around the country at all levels of seniority were affected by the cuts. More than 5 percent of the firm's 1,000 attorneys were laid off.
The Recorder2009-01-29 12:00:00 AM
The bad news continues for San Francisco Bay Area associates and legal staffers.
San Francisco giant Morrison & Foerster cut 53 lawyers and 148 staff Wednesday, adding to the mounting toll of out-of-work legal professionals.
The firm issued a statement saying the layoffs were meant "to align our firm with client needs in this extraordinary economic downturn." Associates and staff from around the country at all levels of seniority were affected by the cuts, firm sources said. More than 5 percent of the firm's 1,000 attorneys were laid off.
MoFo is only the latest Bay Area law firm to bow to the recession. Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe; Cooley Godward Kronish; Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati; and Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian have all cut into their associate and staff ranks in recent months. Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman recently acknowledged quiet layoffs in 2008.
"I've been surprised about the aggressive way that firms in general have dealt with the downturn," said Richard Gary, a law firm consultant. "They are being proactive; they are not waiting to see what is going to happen -- I think most firms are convinced that there's going to be decline in demand for their services."
Morrison & Foerster Chairman Keith Wetmore did not return calls Wednesday afternoon.
In MoFo's San Francisco headquarters, staffers and associates were pulled into individual meetings to be given the bad news. They were then asked to clean out their desks and leave, according to one staffer who was laid off and requested anonymity.
"I'm sad to leave MoFo because MoFo is fantastic place," she said, but added that she was "a little tired of my job."
One veteran staffer who was not laid off and also asked to remain anonymous said that firm employees were all feeling "a little bit of shock and sadness" on Wednesday.
Morrison & Foerster's financial results for 2008 were, like those of other firms, weaker than the previous year. In 2008, the firm's revenue grew just 2 percent, compared to 16 percent in 2007. Profits per partner dropped 13 percent to $1.1 million, after rising 12 percent the year before. The firm said in its statement that it is still on firm financial footing.
"Notwithstanding the difficult steps we are taking today, the state of the firm is strong and we are confident about our future," the statement said. "Our deep bench of legal talent, geographic and practice diversity and healthy balance sheet continue to serve us well and enable the firm to compete effectively."
MoFo escaped major layoffs following the dot-com bust because it didn't have a huge practice in Silicon Valley. This time, the firm didn't fare so well, laying off more lawyers and staff than any other Bay Area firm so far. Orrick laid off 40 lawyers and 35 staff in November. Cooley laid off 52 lawyers and 62 staff earlier this month. On Monday, Wilson Sonsini laid off 45 lawyers and 68 staff. Gunderson laid off five first-year associates in mid-December. Pillsbury recently said it had laid off staff and attorneys in 2008, but did not specify when, or how many.
MoFo's staff will be getting packages with two weeks' pay for every year worked at the firm, MoFo sources said. Attorneys let go will be getting slightly more.
A MoFo spokeswoman declined to comment beyond the prepared statement.