Even in the darkest days of the dot-com bust earlier this decade or in the recession of the early 1990s, there was never a day like Thursday in the world of law firms.

In the space of a few hours, some 300 lawyers — the equivalent of a midsize firm — were handed pink slips around the country. And by the close of business on Friday the 13th, more than 1,100 lawyers and staff had either been fired or asked to consider buyouts.