Stormy Monday — More BigFirm Layoffs; Possible Silver Lining?

Every time I turn around I see more layoffs and terminations.

I know a lot of you are lone wolf gunslingers, but for those who seek safety in numbers the lay of the land looks pretty rocky:

Mayer Brown: 33 attorneys and 55 support staff gone.

Brown Rudnick: 20 attorneys, 20 staff members and three paralegals gone.

Squire, Sanders & Dempsey: 30 attorneys and staff members gone.

The layoff toll keeps rising, and that was the bad news from a single day last week.The past week was particularly grim for law firms, which is saying a lot considering that the past two months have seen quite a few major firms struggle as the economy continues to tailspin. Not only were associates and staff members cut loose, but several firms took some unique steps to reduce expenses as they head into a 2009 that looks to be financially difficult.

DLA Piper, the nation’s largest firm, said that it would ask income partners to contribute capital into the firm — which it has never done before — to help reduce its reliance on bank credit. On top of that, the firm will reduce monthly payments to some of its top equity partners in the United States. The changes still must be approved by partners in December but are expected to take effect in January.

Raises and bonuses appear to be the next areas in which firms are looking to save. Bryan Cave said last week that it is pushing back associate and staff raises to April. They are typically given at the beginning of each new year. Additionally, the firm is canceling its shared-fee program, in which associates are paid a bonus for bringing in new clients. Discretionary staff bonuses for 2008 also are gone.

Cravath, Swaine & Moore told associates last week that year-end bonuses will be less than those paid in 2007 and 2006. At least one other firm has delayed distributing bonuses until 2009 in order to see where its finances stand at the end of 2008.

Still, associates at large law firms may just feel lucky to have a job. Last week’s layoffs came on the heels of several other large attorney purges. Just days prior, White & Case bid adieu to 70 associates and counsel and about 90 staffers, and Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe laid off 40 attorneys and 35 staff members. Several other firms made smaller job reductions.

Some firms are even moving their lawyers overseas — sayonara!

So what’s a laid-off lawyer to do? Well, every door closing is another door opening.

BTW, I have suddenly found religion.

Maybe things are looking up after all.