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Law Firm Layoffs: When the Facts Obscure the News

Leave it to a law librarian to let the facts spoil a perfectly good story.

On Friday, the blog Above the Law reported a recent round of "stealth layoffs" at Nixon Peabody. Law Shucks also reported the layoffs Friday, citing Above the Law as its source. My colleague Bruce Carton mentioned the layoffs in a post here yesterday. These would be the firm's second round of layoffs this year. In February, it let go 56 employees.

Enter Greg Lambert, a law librarian at King & Spalding and an author of the blog 3 Geeks and a Law Blog. Who knows what possessed him to do this, but back in February, when large law firms seemed to be announcing layoffs willy nilly, Lambert took it upon himself to take a snapshot of the rosters of most of the Am Law 100 firms, including Nixon Peabody. Upon reading Friday's reports of further layoffs there, he wondered if the reports might "be a little more 'hype' than 'fact.'"

So Lambert took his snapshot of February's roster and compared it to the current roster. "What I found was pretty interesting, but didn't seem to be as dire as I've been reading in ATL or Law Shucks," he wrote. In a set of charts on his blog, he presents the results: 

  • Twenty-six new associates since February and 32 no longer there.
  • Eight new partners and 15 who are gone.
  • Six new staff attorneys and 12 no longer listed.
  • Twelve new paralegals versus six who have left.

That adds up to a net loss of 19 attorneys and an increase of six paralegals. "What I'm seeing from these raw numbers is that there is still movement within the firms (at least this single one I unscientifically surveyed)," Lambert writes, "but I'd be cautious to buy too much into the hype of secret layoffs without digging a little deeper into the facts surrounding the comings and goings of these attorneys."

Lambert's findings do not necessarily disprove the reports of layoffs at Nixon Peabody. But at least Lambert adds some tangible facts to the mix of reports otherwise based on unnamed "tipsters."

Posted by Robert J. Ambrogi on October 13, 2009 at 03:30 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)

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