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P illsbury Winthrop joined the growing number of law firms reacting to the economic downturn by tightening its belt, laying off 10 percent of its New York-based associates on Thursday and Friday.

The move, said New York Managing Partner Donald Kilpatrick, is “wholly an economic layoff,” unrelated to individual performance issues or redundancies stemming from the January merger between Pillsbury Madison & Sutro and Winthrop, Stimson, Putnam & Roberts.

“We thought coming out of the summer that the deal business and legal business, which had been in the doldrums for the better part of the year, was due for an uptick,” explained Kilpatrick. “But for Sept. 11,” he added, “that’s what would have happened.”

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