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While the true reasons behind the Sullivan & Cromwell layoffs are not known—the firm has not made any public comment regarding layoffs of around 50 staff members that were reported last week—the assumption from sources is that it was a business decision rooted in pandemic-fueled economics. But that might not be the full story. 

Sullivan & Cromwell ranks fourth in the Am Law 100 in profits per partner, is not leveraged and owns its own building. If a firm like that is jettisoning staff to save money, what does that mean for those who don’t enjoy the stability and resources of the white shoe, Wall Street giant? 

It means firms are taking a long, hard look at their staffing arrangements. The pandemic, among other things, has been a great experiment in the effectiveness of remote working and the capability of attorneys to do much of what was formerly done by legal secretaries and or legal administrative assistants (LAAs).

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Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith, based in New York, covers the business of law, including the ways law firms compete for clients and talent, cannabis law and marketing innovation. Reach him at [email protected] or on Twitter at @nycpatrickd

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