The Firms

March 3, 2009 8:42 AM

DLA Piper Lays Off 20 Lawyers, 34 Staffers in Asia

Posted by Anthony Lin

DLA Piper announced Tuesday that it is laying off 20 lawyers and 34 staff across its Asian offices in response to "the deteriorating economic climate."

"This decision was not taken lightly, yet we believe it is one that is strategically and commercially responsible given the existing market environment," Alastair Da Costa, the head of DLA Piper's Asia practices, said in a statement.

The product of several mergers of regional U.S. and U.K. firms, DLA Piper has in recent years built up one of the largest Asia practices of any international law firm, with offices in Hong Kong, Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore, Tokyo, and Bangkok.

A firm spokesman said the majority of the cuts were in the Hong Kong office--the firm's largest in the region, with over 100 lawyers--and were primarily focused on transactional practices.

Hong Kong is the Asian hub for capital markets work, which has fallen off dramatically worldwide since last fall. DLA Piper is one of several firms that built large practices in the area in anticipation of a continued stream of initial public offerings by emerging Chinese companies.

Other big capital markets players such as Linklaters and Allen & Overy are widely presumed to have included Hong Kong in recently announced global layoffs, but those firms have yet to detail their cuts by office.

Most foreign firms have far smaller offices in Asia than the Magic Circle firms or DLA Piper, and some partners at such firms are optimistic about avoiding similar cuts. One Hong Kong managing partner for a leading New York firm said that firms like DLA Piper had "just grown too big" and added that he thought his firm's local office of fewer than 15 lawyers was "right-sized for the market."

DLA Piper's Asia restructuring comes weeks after DLA Piper announced sweeping layoffs in the United States, cutting its ranks by 80 associates. The firm has also had layoffs in the United Kingdom.

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