A New Trend: Rearranging Deck Chairs?

This week, Reed Smith LLP announced a massive 115 person layoff – on the heels of hiring a group of almost 20 Thelen LLP attorneys over the past few weeks.  Given this news, and the recent decision in October by Orrick to layoff 40 attorneys after having taken on 27 Heller attorneys, you begin to ponder: is this the new way for BigLaw to adjust its staffing resources?

Instead of pursuing an outright merger with another firm – and we all know how well that strategy was for Heller and Thelen – the prospective merger partners simply play a waiting game.  And then when the time is right they court a specific group or groups of attorneys to join their firm.  And then ditch some of their current staff – attorney and non-attorney – as part of this process.

Some might say that these firms are simply “rightsizing” and making necessary adjustments to staffing levels given the recent economic times.  Others have said this trend is the “coward’s way out.”

Either way, I bet the recently laid off staff at Reed Smith and Orrick received some type of package, or at the very least their accrued vacation and back wages to which they were entitled.

If you are a recently laid off employee from Reed Smith, Orrick or any BigLaw firm – first, we say welcome.  And second, you are in good company here.  Take a look around and read through the job postings and other posts which might help you during these rough times.

If you are a BigLaw administrator or part of a firm’s management committee, consider the message you are sending while you rearrange your deck chairs.  Mother always said “dance with the one that brung ya.”  At the very least firms like Reed Smith and Orrick have a duty to make every effort to adjust within prior to bringing in new deck chairs from outside, ya think?  Have these firms cut every cost, examined every expense (especially any $300k closing skits or performances as part of annual partner retreats – just sayin’) and made every effort to shift attorneys and staff to other areas where possible?

Or is it more a matter of just finding a prettier dance partner – one who knows all the latest dances – and discarding the loyal ones who were with you through thick and thin times?  What does it say about you as a firm?  And why would BigLaw staffers not consider just setting themselves up as consultants – itinerant legal services workers – since there seems to be no sense of loyalty or job security left?

Over and out.  And as always your thoughts and comments are appreciated.

Heller Drone
Cruise Director 

(Oh yeah – and don’t certain terms like “rightsizing” just piss you off?)

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1 Response to “A New Trend: Rearranging Deck Chairs?”


  1. 1 Former Associate 5 December 2008 at 3:31 pm

    Doesn’t seem likely to me that firms like Reed Smith are just hiring some, e.g., corporate, attorneys and then firing some of the same type. More likely, they hired from Heller refugees in categories they saw business in, and fired in categories where their business is contracting.

    Anybody inside over there know what is really going on?


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