Law firms react like businesses in recession
News | 03 July 2009 | Olivia Collings
An American journalist claims mass layoffs in the legal profession are a blessing in disguise for the industry and the media has been too harsh on the bosses.
As a writer on The Wall Street Journal Law Blog, generally considered the go-to source for legal news, Dan Slater was the first to know about mass staff layoffs at one of the country’s biggest firms, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft. However, instead of being dismayed by the news, Slater said he was impressed by the firm, which, for nearly two decades, had been loath to risk appearing weak by laying off lawyers, reports The New York Times. “Here was one of Wall Street’s most prestigious firms actually behaving like a business, reacting to the onset of recession with sensible layoffs rather than perpetuating the appearance of health at all costs — costs that otherwise would be passed on to clients.”Slater claims the legal media, in its rush to side with the fallen, has often cast the layoff wave as the result of endemic firm mismanagement finally coming home to roost. However, the layoffs, which in many cases have been paired with salary freezes or cuts and significant reductions in law school recruiting, are the best thing to happen to the legal industry in years. “Call it a blessing amid recession,” said Slater. Along with forcing firms to reconsider their structures and billing procedures, Slater claims the recession has forced many lawyers, “particularly those who spent the early part of their careers toiling in structured finance departments and contributing, in the end, nothing to nothing”, to leave the profession and move into something more meaningful or enjoyable.