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Barely a week after explaining to the firm’s partnership disappointing year-end results for 2005, the management at Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman is dealing with another sticky subject: getting a portion of the firm’s administrative staff to give up their jobs. Managing Partner Marina Park isn’t saying how many people the firm wants to see leave, but she expects a voluntary buy-out program to involve no more than 50 of the firm’s thousand-person staff. If that doesn’t work, she hasn’t ruled out layoffs. “We don’t have any plans to lay off staff,” Park said Friday. “We will take a look at our business and evaluate that” after the firm completes its program. The goal is to reduce the number of staff to attorneys. Park said Pillsbury isn’t holding a similar program for lawyers nor is it pushing lawyers out or laying them off. The staff has until Jan. 23 to respond to the firm’s severance offer, and the departures would be effective Feb. 3. The program was being offered to all administrative staff, with some exceptions. For instance, secretaries in the firm’s Houston, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., offices aren’t eligible. “We have new staff positions we believe are important to add to the firm to better support our clients. For example, we are hiring a director of diversity and are adding positions in litigation support,” Park said. “We try to maintain a consistent ratio of administrative staff to attorneys and concluded that the voluntary departure program would enable us to maintain this ratio while also adding some new positions.” Asked if the firm was offering the program in reaction to the year’s disappointing results, Park stated, “We are offering it because we are looking ahead to 2006 and want to make sure that we are positioned for a strong year.” Still, she admitted that the firm fell short of its billable targets for 2005. Profits per equity partner declined from $780,000 in 2004 to $760,000 in 2005, and revenue per lawyer was nearly flat at about $665,000. Park attributed the results to merger costs and the overall profitability of the Shaw Pittman firm, and said that lawyers were willing to accept the year’s drop for the opportunity of a stronger platform and future growth. Firm Chair Mary Cranston said previously that during the last year, the firm lost more than 100 lawyers due to conflicts during the merger. And she said the firm counseled out under-performing lawyers, though she declined to say how many. Pillsbury offered up a similar voluntary departure program to staff in 2002. Charles Fanning Jr., head of the partner placement practice at the recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa, said Pillsbury’s voluntary departure plan for staff wasn’t the norm. “Pillsbury isn’t alone in seeking to boost profitability through non-attorney staff cuts. What is a little unusual here is the methodology,” he said. “Most other firms are doing staff cuts on a more individualized basis, which can be done quietly. Pillsbury had to know that a broader voluntary departure program was going to hit the press and that some would, rightly or wrongly, construe it as a sign of financial distress.” One recently departed Pillsbury associate commented: “My take is that there is probably pressure from the partnership to get costs in line.” Also scheduled to leave this month in an unrelated move are the firm’s chief operating officer, Michael Sikora, who helped facilitate the firm’s merger, and Crystal Rockwood, director of communications. Firm leaders said that Sikora told them a year ago he was thinking of leaving. He will be replaced by Steven Moore.

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