If there’s any upside to Hurricane Katrina, it’s that it forced New Orleans’ Adams and Reese into belt-tightening mode two years before the global economic crisis hit. The firm was forced to start reducing staff and other expenses shortly after the hurricane struck in 2005, long before other Am Law 200 firms began instituting mass layoffs, cutting salaries and delaying associate start dates.

“We really had to start tightening to stay competitive,” said managing partner Charles Adams Jr. That meant terminating nonperforming lawyers more quickly, changing staff ratios from two lawyers per secretary to three lawyers per secretary through attrition, and being more selective about the type of work the firm took.

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