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October 5, 2010 4:47 PM

Law Firm Layoff Train Stops at Husch Blackwell

Posted by Brian Baxter

Layoffs at Am Law 200 firms may have slowed from their frenetic pace of a year ago, but they haven't stopped altogether. The latest blip on the job-loss radar: Husch Blackwell.

The Kansas City, Mo.-based firm let go of nearly 20 under-performing lawyers last month. Those cut loose included associates and nonequity partners, according to Law 360. News of the layoffs, which occurred in September, was first reported by Above the Law and confirmed to The Am Law Daily by the firm.

While those let go reportedly failed to meet their billable hour targets for 2009, the firm declined to get into specifics for the layoffs and would not specify how many lawyers had been affected.

"As is our firm's practice, we constantly monitor our attorney staffing to match the level of experience, expertise, and depth necessary to service our clients' workload needs," firm spokeswoman Susan Seilnacht said in an e-mail to The Am Law Daily. "At times, that includes adding lawyers and sometimes reducing our ranks."

In Husch Blackwell's last round of layoffs in March 2009, the firm let go 17 lawyers and 45 staffers.

The firm was formed in January 2008 through a merger between St. Louis-based Husch & Eppenberger and Kansas City's Blackwell Sanders. Six months later, the newly merged Husch Blackwell picked up Chicago IP boutique Welsh & Katz, leading The American Lawyer to wonder whether the firm was destined to join the ranks of The Am Law 100. (Click here for a subsequent profile of the firm from the magazine.)

Husch Blackwell broke into The Am Law 100 last year and according to the latest survey data had 565 lawyers and $289 million in gross revenues for 2009. Profits per each of the firm's 170 equity partners, which were an 11 percent decrease from the firm's 2008 totals, stood at $565,000. (In August, Husch Blackwell dropped the "Sanders" name from its shingle.)

Seilnacht, the firm spokeswoman, notes that Husch Blackwell recently made three lateral hires and welcomed 16 first-year associates to the firm in September. A diversity consultant writing for the New York Law Journal, a sibling publication, previously credited Husch Blackwell with ditching a lockstep salary structure and, in doing so, keeping more women from leaving the firm.

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