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November 4, 2009 4:02 PM

It's Not All Layoffs at Latham as Firm Promotes 23 to Partner

Posted by Zach Lowe

Latham & Watkins is promoting 23 associates to partner and 13 more to counsel, according to a statement released on Wednesday. That number is down about 25 percent from the 30 new partners promoted last year, as well as from the 29 named in 2007. The firm's statement noted that 17 of the 23 new partners are either corporate or finance partners. Six of the 23 are women. The promotions take effect on January 1.

The announcement marks something of a positive end to a year that started on a sour note for the 2,000-lawyer behemoth. In February, Latham announced layoffs of 250 staffers and 190 associates, the latter constituting about 11 percent of the firm's associate base, according to our Layoff List. That figure was the fifth-highest we found among Am Law 200 firms near the middle of this year; Latham's 190 total lawyer layoffs was the largest gross number for any firm we tracked at the time.

All 36 associates being promoted are finishing their eighth year at the firm, according to Rick Bress, global chair of Latham's 50-person associates committee. The committee, made of about half partners and half associates, joins the firm's executive committee in giving nonbinding recommendations for individual promotion to partnership, Bress says. The firm's management, which has the final say on partner promotion, follows those recommendations in nearly every case, Bress says. 

Bress has been global chair of the committee--which he describes as a key part of the Latham culture—for four years. Bress says he spends about 1,600 hours per year on committee work, and the average member can expect committee business to take up about 500 hours per year, he says.

The 36 associates chosen for promotion represent about 75 percent of the total number of associates who stayed at the firm long enough to be eligible for partnership, Bress says. 

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I have been told from insiders that Latham pushes the required billable hours to untainable levels, in particular in the litigation group, 3000+ per year. That is 60 billable hours per week, not counting national holidays, sick or personal days. Latham public information is not legitimate. I am sure that this is PR release to look good for clients.

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