Post-holiday layoffs seem to be continuing as area firms make staff and associate cuts.
Fresh off the news last week that Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll laid off a number of support staff, Blank Rome has confirmed that it laid off both staff and associates.
There were rumblings in the Philadelphia legal community Thursday that the firm had conducted layoffs with the highest noted number coming in around 50. The Legal has learned that 20 associates and 40 staff members have been laid off.
While a Blank Rome spokesman wouldn’t get into specifics as to the breakdown or which practice groups were affected, he said cuts at the 500-lawyer firm were made last week and were done across the firm. He said all of the people affected were provided with a severance package and outplacement counseling.
In a statement, Blank Rome said the cuts were necessary to adjust the firm’s attorney and staff headcounts to be in line with the current and anticipated needs of its clients.
“These are purely economic decisions — this is a group of talented attorneys and staff who have made valuable contributions to our firm,” the statement continued. “We have not taken these decisions lightly, and while Blank Rome remains in strong financial condition having concluded a satisfactory year in 2008, we are not immune to the global economic downturn. Like any other business, we must assess and respond to the economic realities and the plain fact that we are in the midst of a recession, and that is what we have done.”
There were rumors that Blank Rome had laid off a group of associates last summer but the firm said at the time that only nine associates were affected as part of annual performance reviews.
The Pennsylvania legal community had been affected by layoffs throughout a good portion of 2008, but most were limited to staff positions. Consultants predicted attorney layoffs would be the next to come and probably wouldn’t hit until the beginning of this year as firms wanted to avoid making cuts right before the holidays.
Since the beginning of January, Ballard Spahr and Saul Ewing have made staff cuts. Ballard Spahr laid off a number of secretarial and administrative staff last week, with reports putting the number at between 40 and 65. A few sources said attorneys — possibly up to 10 — were involved in the cuts. While the firm wouldn’t give any specifics, it emphasized that only support staff were affected.
Saul Ewing laid off 12 people from its administrative staff in early January. The group comprised about 4 percent of the firm’s overall staff headcount and was done across four offices for economic reasons.
Stradley Ronon Stevens & Young laid off at least two attorneys and three support staff before the end of 2008.
• Dechert gave 13 associates layoff notices last March and moved other associates to different practice groups. It ultimately gave those 13 finance and real estate attorneys temporary assignments in other practices and had adamantly denied that any other attorney cuts, other than for performance issues, had occurred since that time. In mid-December, the firm announced it laid off 72 administrative staff in its U.S. offices, which accounted for about 12.6 percent of the firm’s 570 United States support staff members.
• Reed Smith laid off 50 legal secretaries in April 2008 in order to be more in line with a 3-1 attorney-to-secretary ratio. At the same time, it had hired some new employees to staff a 24-hour client business center. In December, Reed Smith made the largest raw-number staff cut of any local firm, laying off 115 administrative staff in the United States and potentially another seven staff and 11 associates in its U.K. offices.
• Wolf Block let go of a total of 15 support staff and associates in December, though the firm wouldn’t confirm the breakdown of each group.
• Drinker Biddle & Reath was reported to have let go of a little fewer than 20 corporate associates last month, but the firm said it has a policy of not commenting on personnel matters.
• Buchanan Ingersoll & Rooney cut 25 administrative staff across all of its offices in November because of the economy, though the firm said it didn’t expect attorneys to be affected.
• Duane Morris cut seven people from its marketing team in August and an additional 15 administrative positions — mainly in the Philadelphia office — from other departments the same week. •