November 21, 2008 4:43 PM
Fragomen Del Rey Announces Associate Layoffs
Posted by Brian Baxter
UPDATE: This story has been updated with new information regarding the number of paralegals laid off by the firm.
New York's Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy confirmed on Friday that it had let go between seven and eight associates, along with staff.
"We [made cutbacks] in selective offices, it wasn't firmwide," says firm chairman Austin Fragomen, Jr. The 220-lawyer immigration firm, which The American Lawyer's Susan Beck profiled in the magazine's annual Am Law 200 issue in June, has 17 offices in the U.S. and Europe. (The firm also has 14 affiliated offices in Australia, Central America, India, and Asia that were not affected by the layoffs.)
One of the offices affected is New York, where Fragomen says between three and four associates were let go. Layoffs in the financial services market, which provides the firm with many employment immigration matters, precipitated the move.
"There's a certain percentage of employees in these financial institutions that will be foreign nationals," Fragomen says. "So if a company lays off 10 percent or so of its workers, then that impacts us in terms of the number of immigration cases they need."
Fragomen says each of the firm's offices made staff evaluations independently. Since the firm focuses primarily on immigration work, it doesn't pay associate bonuses, Fragomen says. As a result, overall associate compensation will not be affected.
The firm had gross revenues of $247 million, and profits for each of the firm's 42 equity partners average $1.89 million.
After the lawyers were let go, other cuts came from the legal assistant and paralegal ranks. (Fragomen did not have an exact number on-hand for nonlawyer layoffs, but sources to The Am Law Daily say the firm has terminated roughly 50 paralegals.)
Heading into next year, Fragomen, an avid sailor in his spare time, says the firm will likely curtail hiring until the cloudy economic forecast clears. He said he doesn't expect an Obama administration to take any major new immigration initiatives, but he remains hopeful.
"When there is comprehensive immigration reform, we would think more likely than not that it would be very good for our business," he says. "Any liberalization [in policy] would deal with a number of structural problems that currently exist."
It's not surprising that Fragomen's weary of the Bush years. The firm landed in hot water in June when the U.S. Department of Labor announced that it was auditing over 2,000 green card applications filed by the firm. The agency suspected the firm was trying to help clients circumvent regulations to hire non-U.S. workers. The audit was closed in September with no sanctions brought against the firm. Fragomen chooses to look ahead.
"Obama has gone on record a number of times about his great concern and interest in education, so he should be a natural in terms of facilitating the retention of graduates of U.S. universities that are foreign nationals," Fragomen says. "But who knows when that will happen--he should start working on it immediately!"Make a comment