It’s sinking in at many firms that lawyers may likely have to be let go. This is happening as the fall review cycle beckons. It will be tempting to effectuate the layoffs as part of the reviews—so-called stealth layoffs. After all, the conventional wisdom is that stealth layoffs entail less risk than their open, publicly acknowledged, counterparts.

There is a countervailing view. It starts from the premise that the stealth vs. open layoff decision is a tradeoff between risks to external reputation (how the blogosphere perceives the firm) and to internal relationships (how associates view partners and firm leaders). At the onset of the Great Recession, the former was generally deemed to be the greater threat, as evidenced by stealth layoffs outnumbering their open counterparts by nearly 3:1 (see analysis in appendix).

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