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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!"

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Fragomen layoff are based on personal greed. The firm's policies imacting employees are always based on the bonuses made by partners. We recommend an investigation of the firm policy with respect to compensation of partners including Austin Fragomen and his wife.

The decline in immigration business bodes poorly for the recovery of the American economy.

Fragomen layoff... Feel bad for poor associates and paralegals.. The greed of partnership and the government investigation of the firm has finally caught up.. Understand that the Department of Homeland Security and the District Attorney's Ofice are also investigating the Firm..
Way to go Frags....

Don't be so harsh on Fragomen. He is only taking money from corporations that have no clue of who and what they are paying for. The lawyers are Fragomen will do anything for money. We will soon find out. Look what happened in Chicago.

Overheard a partner saying Firm considering filing chapter 11.. Anyone have any news on this...

They just had another big layoff on January 15, 2009. Do not know the total #'s of all the offices combined in the layoff. Anyone know any #'s? They also laid off during a blackout period on the 401K so no one could access their funds!

I was one of the associates laid-off on 11/10/08. I was pretty bitter considering up until that time the firm had pressured me to relocate at my detriment. I asked whether my reluctance to relocate was a reason for my being included in the layoff and was told no. They said they would have laid me off even if I would have moved, leaving me in a different state with my house still on the market.

I know 26 people were laid off in Phoenix a few days ago. Five of them associates.

The word is out. More investigations of Fragomen underway. Firm profits, billing, client representation before the Department of Homeland Security and other federal agencies. More to come.

How interesting that Austin Fragomen did not know the exact number of laid off nonlawyer staff. The staff that made him what he is. His paralegals who drafted and filed all the applications and the partners wrote themselves big checks. Where is all the money gone. May be the Feds should investigate the finances of Fragomen partners. All the partners who made more bonuses than these bankers.

Fragomoen hired me to represent one of the banks. When hired by one of his partners I was told that I could make a lot of money since the firm would pay me a huge bonus on billing. All I did was respond to hundreds of cases audited by the Labor Department and the partners made all the money. The partners at Fragomen were not concerned about the audit but wanted to make sure that they were able to bill the financial institutions and make millions of dollars. The partners were not concerned about the quality of work but only billing and receipts. The young associates and paralegals did all the work with no review. Fed is investigating all the financial institutions and they should investigate Fragomen and all the partners in the firm.

Now it is the partners turn to be laid off! If you were made a partner last year, get ready to be booted out unless you have that special realtionship with the equity partners. Only select partners at Fragomen will remain since not every one is treated the same way. I plan to write a book and invite suggestions from all the formers associates and paralegals. Should be an interesting reading. Wait for the announcement and join me. Not a story but facts surrounding how greed dominates the firm practice amongst the partners who all share the same principal.

Surprised Jackie Manlow believed that she would be paid a bonus - any current or former associate of the firm can tell you that bonus is not the vocabulary of FDBL, unless you are one of the primadonna paralegals on staff. At the end of the day, everyone working there makes their pact with the devil - take the big salary and take their crap.

They also age discriminate. Those left doing the same work are well below age 40, even though the older employees being laid off were told there was no work for them. The result is that the client is getting inexperienced workers who generally don't care about the work. Considering what they charge, the client is getting ripped off. It used to be a great place to work. Now, it is just a visa mill, with the partners and associates cracking the whip to bill. They get the money and those doing the work get disrespect and are abused financially and mentally.

I feel bad for the clients of the firm as they are paying top dollar to have assistant paralegals and paralegals work on their cases with little or no review from attorneys or partners. The only thing the partners were concerned about is billing so they could live in the lap of luxury. Pretty pathetic that when the firm is in a sour financial situation there is expensive artwork being purchased to decoratic the office.

A Fragomen attorney once told me that she considers the accused guilty until proven innocent. That quote sums up the general intelligence of Fragomen attorneys. Most are idiots. It's well known that the Paralegals have far superior undergraduate degrees. The attorneys are nothing more than proof readers. I'd like to give a shout out to S. Hilton, T. Lipman, K. Butler, and everyone in Office Services.

I hope we haven't seen the end of it. Feds investigating the financial institutions need to wake up and see what Fragomen partners are doing. Should they be treated any different than all those CEOs who made millions at the expense of so many Americans?
The overall profits in millions are shared by the equity partners when the firm is billing the same financial institutions that are ready to file for chapter 11 and looking for Fed bail out. Fragomen on Fed's radar.
Isn't it about time? So why are so many Americans in the financial sector looking for jobs and Fragomen making so much money from these Banks?

Austin Fragomen hoping that the Obama administration will increase immigration? He's probably not too concerned now that all his financial clients are tanking and restrictions on immigration are being slapped in the stimulus bill. He's what, 65, has his money offshore somewhere, probably ready to retire. It's the other partners who have to be concerned.

I would be seriously concerned for Austin Fragomen. An investigation of how the firm and the partners made millions must be on Obama administration's agenda. A group of associates are joining together to bring attention to what seems to be every citizen's concern. All of Fragomen's accounts and dealings are now under Fed scrutiny. We shall see.

FDBL is right now letting go more ppl in Santa Clara office. What they do with to $$$$$ they make????

I worked for a partner at Fragomen who came from a firm that went bankrupt because of him. The HR Administrator in New York office who is the golden boy of this partner was seen smiling when he was handing release letters to employees just before the holidays! He doesn't realize that his days with the Firm are numbered. The partner who came to the Firm with a reputation of being a total idiot is now managing the firm.. Imagine where Fragomen is going.. where this partner's old firm went.. to bankruptcy...... We all want to see that happen soon.. by investigation or by default...

Wonder who that partner could be. There are so many geniuses at the top of the food chain there.

I left Fragomen a couple of years ago. While every business/law firm has its faults, Fragomen was at most times a great place to work. While I'm sure many of you have legitimate complaints (likely, far less qualified and far less dedicated individuals retained their jobs while you lost yours), your complaining en masse in comments to this article makes you seem sound like nothing more than bitter former employees with axes to grind. The amount of employees at Fragomen was bloated - there had to be layoffs/firings once the economy went bad. That's what's called "the market."

And as far as dicrimination goes, Fragomen has a track record of diverse hiring that I bet would match any other firm/company (in fact, has been cited by the media for such hiring on more than one occasion).

By the way, and this is the best part, your public complaining is only weakening your resume as you seek further employment. Not too smart, especially during a recession.

You incorrectly placed a period within an end quotation mark. You are missing a subject in your second paragraph. Your final "sentence" lacks both a subject and a verb. That's not too smart, and your message has failed to achieve the condescending tone that you intended.

Dear Former Employee,

If Fragomen was such a great place to work, why did you leave?

You also misspelled discrimination. Are you sure you left or maybe you were asked to leave. Your English composition is terrible and English composition is one of the most important skills needed, not only at Fragomen, but at any business.

In addition, without names and with so many people laid off, how will Fragomen know who is voicing their opinion on this website? And, even if they could figure out who it is, what are they going to do about it? Call every law firm in New York and say that so and so posted a complaint on a website so don't hire them? Not only would this be impossible, it would also be illegal. So, perhaps when you go back to school to improve your English, you may want to take some law courses.

But for now, you sit there with a job (probably as a secretary) and pass judgment on those who were used, abused and disrespected. Shame on you.

I am not sure this is a former employee of Fragomen or currently employed because no one in their right mind could claim that "Fragomen at most times was a great place to work." What drives each quity partner at Fragomen is the amount of money they squeeze from the Firm by making the paralegals do the billing. The marketing department of the Firm is run by a non-lawyer based in Santa Clara who attends every partership meeting and gets a huge share of profits! The HR is directed by a partner who thinks he owns the practice and the people who work for the firm. As for diverse hiring, Fragomen was forced to do it a few years ago when an investment banking firm sent a questionnaire asking about the Firm's hiring practices. The next thing you know is that the Firm announces nomination of a few partners stressing the diverse culture of the Firm. What a joke... but no one is laughing. It is not the public complaining stupid, it is the Fragomen name on the resume that has become a serious problem for former employees to seek other employment! Good luck getting hired by an Immigration Law firm if you ever worked for Fragomen.


Because the Fragomens have abused so many of the workers and made millions of dollars, they will suffer. The curses of all the people will result in something bad.. really bad to both Austin and his wife Gwen.. Our prayers are with them for their soul to rest in peace. Fragomens should also hold all of their millions because they will need it all up there.. real soon we hope.

How many people were let go in the California Office?

As someone who was layed off from Fragomen, I can state with certainty that Fragomen became a miserable place to work by the end and I understand continues to be. Most of the Senior Attorneys and Client Services Managers are extremely lazy and leave all of the work to the paralegals under them. They do not thoroughly review the work done by paras (their primary job!). Then, when something goes wrong, the CSMs and Attorneys are all to quick to throw the paras under the bus. I thank God everyday that I was released from that cest pool of ineptness.

Much love to my former peeps who continue to suffer at the idiotic hands of DQ and DJ.

I am an employee of Fragomen and have been for many years. I am sickened by what I've read as these comments are made by people who had no problem with the firm until they were laid off. And if they did have a problem chose to stay to collect a salary. Fragomen is not a non profit org and like all law firms thrives on billing to pay its employees. Yes, the paras play a key role in the billing process because that's their job!!! Over the past five or so years the firm has grown and the number of employees had skyrocketed forcing Austin Fragomen to restructure it's HR department, accounting, etc. as it no longer was a small organization and could no longer operate as such. While I do agree that there were many changes that took place, these were changes that were needed. Many employees missed the charm and closeness and "family" atmosphere that existed among us, but we were no longer that small law firm and in order to run the business with so many employees, they did what they needed to do. I am very sorry for those who lost their jobs and was very saddened by it, and who knows, I may be next, but what I do know is that I will do what needs to be done to make FRAGOMEN thrive and I am ashamed of my former coworkers' reactions. The partners that I work with treat every single client that we have as if they were their only client. Every associate and para plays a role in getting the job done and since each case is unique, how is it possible that the work we do is in the assembly line style? I could go on and on ... but there's no point. I just wanted to voice my opinion and defend the firm that I work with and the partners, associates and paras that remain at Fragomen. I am proud to say that I am an employee at the Fragomen firm and proud to be a part of a team that is very hard working, professional and go to work every day to serve the clients that have entrusted us to handle their immigration to the US. By the way, go ahead and comment on my grammer or punctuation ... sticks and stones! Have a great day and please, spend the generous severance packages provided to you wisely!

Fragomen just had more layoffs today. They laid off 8 in the Dallas office.

Another round of layoffs at Fragomen. Anyone know how many this time. It may be a ghost town before it is all over.

Fragomen is hiring so anyone who was told their termination was due to the economy believe me it was not, it was due to someone not liking you. It's all about personalities, and nothing else. Don't take it personally if you lost your job, you are probably really good at what you do. If you were told something by a Fragomen Partner, you can bet it was a lie.

I was a partner at Fragomen and was told to leave the firm as the firm was financially hurting. The truth is that the equity partners were not happy with their share of money. They laid off a number of associates and senior paralegals who serviced major accounts. The partnership is in trouble as more and more young partners want a big share of the profits. The clients are the ones who suffer! Great time for other immigration law firms to take over.

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