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by Vault Law Editors | February 19, 2009

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A week has passed since The Thursday, and we're still a bit shellshocked (not that This Thursday has been especially pacific). What astounded us about last week's legal layoffs, now estimated at more than 1,100 nationwide, wasn't that they happened—it was that they all happened on the same day. Last week, we joined others in offhandedly attributing the timing of Thursday?s layoffs to the looming presence of Friday the 13th. It seems that nobody has posited a less superstitious explanation, but a few plausible theories for the broader timing of the layoffs have been making the rounds in the legal press this week:

  • Awaiting Changeand the Stimulus: Despite then-unprecedented layoff numbers in January, some firms did hold off on post-holiday cuts pending the arrival of Obama and the economic stimulus plan he'd promised to introduce. The legislation's subsequent congressional travails and cool reception by the money markets led firm leaders to surmise that the recession is here for the long haul and cemented their resolve to rein in spending—by eliminating salaries.

  • Placating the Partnership: With preliminary 2008 AmLaw returns showing, as expected, shrinking profits per partner in many firms, outfits likely feel the need to cull their associate ranks to head off partner departures. The current lateral market is virtually nonexistent for BigLawyers who aren't high-earning partners (or select senior associates) with portable books of business, and a firm's inaction in the face of more expected revenue flattening in 2009 could send high earners scurrying.
Yet the more specific quandary remains: Why Thursday? What prompted nine firms to drop ax on the same day? Theories? Bueller? Bueller?

On an entirely unrelated note, this marks Void's 200th post. Thus far, the journey's been one of raises, freezes, expansion, layoffs, piraty scandals and scandalous piracy. Count on more of the same.

-posted by ben fuchs

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Filed Under: Law

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