Are More Weil Gotshal-Style Layoffs Coming?

law firm layoffsThe Weil Gotshal layoffs have spooked an already fragile legal industry recovery, with some commentators saying there are almost certainly more to come from corporate law firms.

Already there have been office closings, such as Baker & McKenzie’s closure of their San Diego office and the closure also of that city’s office for Goodwin Procter.

But the losing of 60 associates’ jobs at Weiil, together with 110 other employees has created some major concerns among lawyers that there will be many more to follow what Weil has either started, or continued, depending on your viewpoint as to whether any law firm recovery had actually started.

In his interview at Bloomberg Law, Bruce MacEwen speculated that there could be 10 per cent over capacity at Big Law. As AbovetheLaw noted:

In Bruce’s view, Weil is “very much ahead of the curve.” Ominous tidings for associates everywhere. There’s an interesting point in the interview where Pacchia wonders whether the legal profession will ever return to a “halcyon era” where law firm partners’ immediate self-interest is minimized in favor of long-term stewardship.

Bruce, channeling Clubber Lang, responds that the only thing that will return us to that golden era, if it ever existed, is more pain.

Last week we conducted a research poll asking for your take on whether the Weil layoffs signal an oncoming reprise of the Biglaw bloodbath of 2008-09 or a singular phenomenon. Let’s look at the results of our poll and some choice highlights from your responses….

A substantial majority of you are not freaking out. So that’s good. Our poll results broke down as follows:

  • 17% say that there will be widespread layoffs. A repeat of 2008-09.
  • 13% believe that the Weil layoffs are an anomaly and peer firms will not follow suit.
  • 69% predict that there will be additional Biglaw layoffs but nowhere near the scale of 2008-09.

Whatever may occur with legal layoffs, it seems clear that the trend towards further belt tightening by way of office closures or layoffs is set to continue.

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