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March 3, 2009 10:36 AM

Breaking: Orrick Lays Off 100 Associates, 200 Staff

Posted by Zach Lowe

Today is shaping up to be another bad day in Am Law land. First, we've got Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe's major announcement, one that Above the Law called last Friday: The firm, which laid off 40 lawyers and 35 staff in November, is letting go of 100 more associates and 200 staff members.

In November, Orrick's managing partner, Ralph Baxter, lamented the initial round of layoffs and said that he did not expect any more in the future.

"Our expectation is for this to be it," Baxter told The Am Law Daily. 

Obviously, the economy has continued to decline with a speed that many in the legal (and business) world didn't anticipate. 

We're waiting to hear from Baxter on severance details (those laid off in November got five months) and details on which associates were the victims today. 

And in case you missed this earlier Am Law Daily post, DLA Piper has announced plans to lay off 20 lawyers and 34 staff members in its Asia operation. 

Update (12:50 p.m.): We just got off the phone with Baxter, who confirms that firm higher-ups just didn't see the economy tanking as badly as it has. Regarding his statement in November that he didn't foresee future layoffs, Baxter says, "I say what I think at the time, and I mean it. Maybe people smarter than me saw this going where it has gone."

Baxter says the (approximately) 100 laid-off attorneys include associates at all levels, including first-years, and that the layoffs impacted offices throughout the firm. Those let go will receive three months of severance pay and benefits--two months less than those who lost their jobs in November, Baxter says. About three weeks ago, Orrick's leaders began a comprehensive study of the firm's structure as a means of deciding where to focus any potential layoffs, he says. 

Baxter says he's confident the firm will now be stable going forward. He points out that in 2008, Orrick added more than 80 laterals and absorbed a small firm in Germany, making last year Orrick's biggest ever in terms of acquisitions. Baxter says he believes the addition of those lawyers--including the energy law group from Thelen--has put Orrick in a position to better deal with the economic downturn.

As in November, Baxter says he doesn't anticipate further layoffs, but adds that, "You never know what tomorrow will bring."

"We hope to and intend to proceed from here without further reductions," Baxter says. 

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I just think that it's a shame the way that Orrick let go of it's people. You'd have to have seen it to believe it! It was utter nonsense!

I agree with the previous poster and am shocked at how cheap they were with the severence packages, especially for staff. Staff who had been with the firm for many years were let go before those who were hired less than a year ago.

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