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The rumors are on the street — and the Internet. Morgan Lewis is planning to lay off 25 associates in its Philadelphia office, mostly transactional lawyers as a concession to the slowing economy. Philadelphia’s largest firm handing out pink slips to almost 14 percent of its local associates, especially after firms in New York and California have recently engaged in similar moves, could create a domino effect as other Philadelphia firms begin to feel the sting of a souring economy. So, is it true? Not according to Morgan Lewis Philadelphia office managing partner Howard Meyers, who categorically denied the rumors that have been the talk of the local legal community over the past few weeks. Several sources said they heard the firm laid off 25 associates in Philadelphia in recent weeks, focusing almost exclusively on transactional practice areas. While attorneys at other firms have speculated as to whether the rumor is true, the same discussion was underway in legal-related online chat rooms. Meyers did not want to speculate as to how the rumors started or what the motivation was behind it. His focus was clearly on setting the record straight. “We go through an annual evaluation process (at the end of the firm’s fiscal year) and that eventually results in some associates being told that they no longer have a future with the firm,” Meyers said. “This happens every year. I just think there might be more attention paid to it this year because with the economy slowing down, there aren’t as many outlets for them in terms of corporate employers.” Meyers said the firm tries to let associates know where they stand as soon as it has been determined that they don’t fit into the firm’s future plans. In this case, he said no more than a half-dozen associates total — the bulk of whom are from the corporate department — were told. “No pink slips were handed out, no one was told to pack their things and leave,” Meyers said. “We did not target any one specific practice area or level of experience. This is something that happens every year. They aren’t given a firm deadline in terms of having to leave. But if enough time passes and they still haven’t left, we might have to do something.” According to Meyers, the firm has been actively hiring in most practice areas — intellectual property, real estate, litigation and employee benefits, to name a few. While they have not been hiring as aggressively on the mergers and acquisitions side, Meyers said there have been no layoffs in that area and the firm has seen an upswing in corporate activity in the last month. “There were no layoffs during the recession of 1991 to 1993, and I certainly don’t see any layoffs in the present economic environment,” Meyers said. So if it’s not true, how do such rumors get started? “I don’t want to speculate on how rumors like this get started or why people take such delight in perpetuating them.” Meyers said. “I don’t want to dignify it other than to say it has no basis in fact.” Sandra Mannix of Abelson Legal Search, which does attorney placements in Philadelphia, said the rumor could be the work of an unhappy associate — possibly one who was informed of his or her lack of future with the firm. “Sometimes a single individual with an ax to grind against the firm or a department in the firm can start a rumor regardless whether the rumor is true,” Mannix said. Mannix said there are no market indicators in the legal placement world that would lead her to believe that Morgan Lewis or any other local firm has laid off attorneys. “We have not seen any increase in the number of attorneys looking for new positions (presumably after being terminated),” Mannix said. “And, save for maybe one midsized firm, we are still seeing job orders for new partners and associates on all [experience] levels.”

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