Saturday Weekly Layoff Update:

Although things appear a little better on the layoff front this week – there are still plenty of law firms laying off staff or planning to..

Here are the latest updates:

Mayer Brown to Cut 55 Jobs and Freeze Salaries in London
Legal Week March 20, 2009
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said Mayer Brown had put in place a firmwide pay freeze, including halting associate lockstep. In fact, the immediate freeze is in London.

Mayer Brown has launched a restructuring in London which is set to see overall headcount reduced by 55.

The firm is expecting to lose up to 23 associates and 32 support staff, including secretaries, as a result of the restructuring, which is likely to hit transactional areas such as corporate and real estate the hardest.

On top of the cuts, the firm is also instituting a pay freeze for London staff and associates and is asking for trainees due to start at the firm in September 2009 to volunteer to defer until 2010.

The firm said the restructuring was part of its strategy moving into 2009 and 2010 in response to the global recession.


Katten and Jenner & Block Lay Off Lawyers, Staff
Associates at Katten who missed billable hour targets will see base salaries cut; both firms also laid off attorneys last year
The National Law Journal March 20, 2009
Katten Muchin Rosenman and Jenner & Block, two law firms with the bulk of their lawyers in Chicago, have collectively cut an additional 23 lawyers and 80 staff members, the firms said.

Katten, which now has about 625 lawyers, dismissed 23 attorneys, including 12 associates and seven non-equity partners, six paralegals and 40 administrative staff members as part of a broader effort to reduce costs.

The cost-cutting program will also cut base salaries by 20 percent for associates who last year failed to bill within 200 hours of their 2008 target.

Jenner & Block, a firm with 461 attorneys, said it’s eliminating 34 support staff positions in its Chicago and Washington offices to reduce costs after benefitting from technological improvements.


Staff Layoff Watch: Jenner Block Has More Bad News For Chicago
Above The Law
Thursday, March 19

It’s been a rough week in Chicago. Sidley laid off 229 people, something is happening at Katten today, and we have received confirmation that Jenner & Block has had to lay off 34 staffers.

Above the Law obtained this official statement from Jenner’s managing partner, Susan Levy:

Given the efficiency and productivity gains from these various sources, Jenner & Block is eliminating 34 support staff positions in our Chicago and Washington, D.C. offices. No attorneys are affected by these changes. We are offering generous severance packages to the individuals affected as well as outplacement services.
That is not a huge number compared to what has been going around. But it’s still pretty tough to be replaced by productivity gains during these difficult economic times.

Mystery Meeting Set at Katten: 2:00 p.m. (CT) Today
Above The Law
Thursday, March 19

Something is going down at Katten today. Multiple tipsters report that a firm wide meeting has been scheduled in each Katten office for 2:00 p.m. central time today. According to the email announcing the meeting, the purpose is:

[T]o discuss the Firm’s Plan for dealing with the continuing weak economy and how that plan relates to the associates.
The firm has not responded to our inquires about this meeting. But our sources report some obvious (and not so obvious) details. Katten has already been through one round of associate layoffs, and many people expect that the firm is initiating round two today.

We’ll tell you what we know after the jump.

As we understand it, layoffs have already started at Katten today. We don’t yet know the scope of these layoffs, but our initial reports suggest that around 30 attorneys will be let go.


Katten Muchin, law firm to Bulls, fires 23 attorneys
Bloomberg News

Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP, the Chicago-based law firm, fired 23 attorneys and 46 support personnel as the slowing economy curbs demand for its services.

The 600-lawyer firm, which also has offices in New York, Washington, London and four other cities, also said it was cutting pay for "underutilized" associates and shortening by two weeks its summer associates program.


Corporate law firms cut staff, slash pay
Chicago Breaking News Centre
March 19
Two corporate law firms in Chicago — Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP and
Jenner & Block LLP — eliminated jobs and slashed salaries today in bids to withstand one of the worst falloffs in the legal business in decades.
Katten Muchin Rosenman LLP fired 23 attorneys and 46 staff members in its second round of dismissals in five months. The layoffs included 12 associates and seven non-equity partners out of more than 600 lawyers.

Jenner & Block LLP laid off 34 support people in its Chicago and Washington offices. None of its nearly 500 attorneys were let go, but the firm has asked dozens of partners to leave in the last two years.

Both firms asserted in statements that they remain on solid financial footing. Revenues are falling across the legal industry, as the one-two punch of the recession and the credit crunch has curtailed corporate mergers, commercial lending, real estate deals and other staples of the business.

Corporate clients also are balking at high legal fees, noted Susan Levy, Jenner’s managing partner.

"Increasingly, price sensitivity in the marketplace demands that we more closely align the firm’s cost structure to best serve clients," she said.

The restructuring at law firms also includes taking a hard look at compensation policies, which traditionally have rewarded associates, younger lawyers working toward partnership, with annual salary increases regardless of their performance.