Richard Alexander, chairman of the firm known until recently as Arnold & Porter Kaye Scholer, said Tuesday that a new voluntary buyout program for its legal secretaries had nothing to do with the firm’s financial health.
Alexander rejected the idea that the buyout program would have far-reaching effects on the firm or that it could presage a round of layoffs, as suggested by the legal industry blog Above the Law, which first reported the buy-out offers.
“This is not a layoff, this is not a prelude to a layoff,” Alexander said. “This does not at all relate to the financial health of the firm.”
In an internal memo dated Monday and addressed to associates in several offices, the firm said it would offer buyouts to all its U.S.-based legal secretaries later this spring. The memo said volunteers would get “generous” severance packages, but that changes were warranted by changes to “the manner in which we and our competitors are delivering secretarial services.”
While Above the Law speculated that the buyouts could affect “thousands,” Alexander said he anticipated only a handful of the firm’s 140 total U.S.-based legal secretaries would choose to participate in the program.
Alexander said his firm offered the voluntary buyouts after analyzing its lawyers’ use of secretaries. He said the firm realized that the advent of new technology has meant lawyers are taking more initiative over tasks usually accomplished by secretaries, such as booking travel.
“We, like every other law firm in the United States, have seen some shift in how our lawyers use secretaries—it relates to technology,” Alexander said. “We at our firm, like every other firm, have been moving toward a more sharing, collaborative arrangement.”
Alexander said the firm was on heathy financial footing, and said its decision to shorten its name to “Arnold & Porter” on its website has no connection to the firm’s financial stability after its 2017 merger with Kaye Scholer.
“We exceeded our budget for 2017, even though we had one-time merger expenses,” Alexander said. He said he expects 2018 to be even stronger. (The firm’s financial results for 2017 have not yet been reported.)
Before the consummation of the $1 billion merger with Kaye Scholer early last year, Arnold & Porter was the much larger firm, with more than $624 million in 2016 revenues and more than 650 lawyers, according to ALM data.