‘CLEANUP’ TIME - As lateral hiring continues to slow, law firms are reassigning corporate associates into litigation and bankruptcy practices, while other firms have begun trimming their lawyer ranks at the edges, cutting associates they feel aren’t up to par, or at least prepping to do so by identifying offices, practices and people who are underperforming, industry observers told Law.com’s Andrew Maloney. Law firms are using the softer demand environment to address weak spots that were difficult to cut during a stronger economy, recruiters and legal industry analysts said. “A lot of chairs feel that slower deal flow, softer economy and softer performance in many firms has a silver lining in that it gives them cover to address areas of weakness in their firm that were harder culturally to address in a strong economy,” said law firm consultant Kent Zimmermann of Zeughauser Group. He said law firms are not just looking at people, but whole offices and practices, and looking to counsel weak performers out of the firm. ”What I hear chairs and managing partners indicate is they’re thinking about cleaning up,” he said.
TAKIN’ CARE OF BUSINESS - Some are called executive directors, some are called chief operating officers and others are called directors of operations. But there’s one thing you can call all of them: busy. As Law.com’s Justin Henry reports, law firm business leaders have become more central to the operations of these formerly lawyer-led business enterprises, as firms scale their operations across multiple practice areas and geographic markets. And while such trends can be seen most prominently in Big Law, data and interviews with law firm leaders show how the integration of a firm’s business and legal functions have a downstream effect on the rest of the legal industry as law firms of all sizes recognize the need for business leadership to make their delivery of legal services competitive. “Any chief operating position at an Am Law 200 firm requires a combination of operational knowledge and skills as well as understanding strategy,” said Debra Lawrence, who joined Ballard Spahr earlier this year in the newly created position of chief operating officer.