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Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati announced Wednesday it will lay off 100 staff members — or 11 percent of its 900 support and administrative employees — over the next two weeks. In a memo to the firm’s attorneys and staff members, Chairman Larry Sonsini said the increased use of technology coupled with the downturn in technology work has left the firm with excess staff capacity. “The decline in capital markets work means less requirement for complex document processing and mailing coordination,” Sonsini wrote. “Litigation matters and corporate clients require fewer case assistants and paralegal services.” The bulk of the staff works at the firm’s Palo Alto headquarters, but the firm said the cuts will affect all offices except the Austin outpost. The announcement follows a series of town hall meetings held in recent weeks to let associates know their ranks will be thinned as well in the weeks to come. The meetings and Wednesday’s announcement mark the first public acknowledgements by Wilson that the firm is cutting employees in the wake of the downturn in tech-related work. The firm’s ranks of associates have shrunk by about 25 percent, from 679 in August 2000 to 511 as of Monday. Still, in a recent interview and in the memo to employees, Sonsini stressed that the firm is trying to manage its business more efficiently rather than simply reduce headcount to spare the bottom line. Sonsini has said the practice groups under pressure to “right-size” by cutting excess associates are venture capital financings and capital markets. Sonsini said the firm has not set a target for associate cuts. The firm turned over the responsibility of cutting associates to individual partners, while the staff cuts will be centrally managed, said Courtney Weber, a spokeswoman for the firm. The firm is offering separation packages to the employees that consist of six weeks’ salary and out-placement support, plus health insurance through October, Weber said. According to the memo, Wilson instituted a hiring freeze of administrative staff more than a year ago. “I am confident that we will come through this downturn with a lean and powerful business, geared for continued success in the years to come,” Sonsini wrote in the memo.

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