Stoel Rives, a Portland, Oregon-based Am Law 200 firm that employs nearly 800 people, announced Wednesday that it will shed 17 administrative staff as part of a strategic plan revamp its operations.
“We’re currently in the midst of implementing our strategic plan, which focuses on proactively modernizing the way we run our firm,” said an internal memo by Anchorage-based managing partner James Torgerson, who last year assumed leadership of Stoel Rives. “Updating our staffing model to meet the demands of today’s legal market reality is part of that, so we’ve laid off 17 of our administrative staff.”
Cutting staff to improve profitability is not necessarily a rare step among law firms. A survey of managing partners conducted this year by legal consultancy Altman Weil Inc. found that 46 percent of firms under 250 lawyers have cut staff within the past year to improve profitability, while 54 percent of firms with more than 250 lawyers have done so as well.
At the same time, cutting staff was reported as one of the more successful moves aimed at improving profitability. More than 70 percent of managing partners said the move achieved its goal of ramping up profits, compared to less-certain plays such as investing in business development, which only 29 percent of managing partners said boosted the bottom line.
Stoel Rives, which earlier this year hired two former K&L Gates partners to court startup clients, saw its gross revenue rise slightly last year, to $215.5 million. The firm is not the first in 2017 to face news of layoffs.
In June, Sedgwick laid off staffers following a series of lateral partner departures, while Seyfarth Shaw shed a substantial number of lawyers and staff in May amid reports of a soft first quarter in demand.