There’s been a significant uptick in calls and letters over the last few days from various students and Big 4 professionals seeking advice regarding current and impending layoffs. They are always surprised when I answer their emails immediately and offer whatever support I can, even if it’s just sympathy and empathy for their situation.
For associates at law firms, how quickly things have changed.
This time last year, salaried lawyers at many of nation’s largest firms had just scored a pay bump, as business was blazing and firms were scrambling to keep talent. Now, due largely to a slowdown in work relating to mortgages, real estate, mergers and private equity, some firms are taking such measures as rescinding offers to incoming associates and summer associates, asking first-year lawyers to start several months later and shortening their summer programs to save money.
New York-based Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman LLP, which employs more than 800 lawyers, recently shrunk the duration of its summer-associate program, which in some offices had been 12 weeks, to 10. And rather than have all incoming first-year lawyers start in September, the firm is staggering start dates over several months. Chicago-based Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal LLP, a 700-lawyer firm, last month rescinded employment offers for two summer associates and two first-year associates in its Charlotte, N.C., office.
Associates are key revenue generators for law firms. Firms generally charge clients an hourly rate for associates’ work, and the more work firms can assign to associates, the more they can earn. But associates are expensive as well, especially now, after firms jumped to match each other’s raises for them when times were good…