Law Firm Layoffs (2020 – Present): What Every Lawyer Needs to Know

Law Firm Layoff Tracker (as of October 2022)

Tracking stealth and transparent law firm layoffs at the AmLaw 200.

Firm# Laid OffLocationTypeDateSeveranceHealthcareVault Rank
Bryan Cave50FirmwideStealth10/09/20UnknownUnknown83
Sheppard MullinUnknownFirmwideStealth10/07/20UnknownUnknown72
SeyfarthUnknownFirmwideStealth09/18/202 monthsUnknown84
Winston & Strawn26-50FirmwideStealth09/14/203 monthsUnknown40
Baker McKenzieUnknownFirmwideOpen09/02/20UnknownUnknown33
Snell and WilmerUnknownOC and LAStealth08/10/20UnknownUnknownN/A
Miller Canfield1-10FirmwideStealth07/10/20UnknownUnknownN/A
Hughes Hubbard & ReedUnknownFirmwideOpen07/07/20UnknownUnknown96
Fox Rothschild1-10FirmwideStealth07/04/20UnknownUnknown85
Katten MuchinUnknownFirmwideStealth06/30/202 monthsUnknown80
Reed Smith11-25LondonOpen06/01/20UnknownUnknown61
Dorsey & WhitneyUnknownFirmwideOpen05/20/20UnknownUnknownN/A
Goodwin Procter11-25FirmwideStealth05/15/203 months4.5 months30
Nixon PeabodyUnknownFirmwideOpen05/06/20UnknownUnknown67
Vedder PriceUnknownFirmwideOpen05/05/20UnknownUnknownN/A
Saul Ewing11-25FirmwideOpen04/30/20UnknownUnknownN/A
Akerman26-50FirmwideOpen04/24/20UnknownUnknownN/A
Husch BlackwellUnknownFirmwideStealth04/23/20UnknownUnknownN/A
DinsmoreUnknownFirmwideOpen04/23/20UnknownUnknownN/A
McDermott Will & EmeryUnknownFirmwideOpen04/22/20UnknownUnknown57
Taft Stettinius & HollisterUnknownFirmwideOpen04/21/20UnknownUnknownN/A
Norton RoseUnknownFirmwideStealth04/16/20UnknownUnknown63
OgletreeUnknownTexasStealth04/15/20UnknownUnknownN/A
Greenspoon Marder1-10FirmwideOpen04/15/20UnknownUnknownN/A
Goldberg SegallaUnknownFirmwideOpen04/09/20UnknownUnknownN/A
Womble Bond DickinsonUnknownFirmwideOpen03/30/20UnknownUnknownN/A
Cahill GordonUnknownFirmwideStealth01/18/196 monthsUnknown66

Editor’s Note: At Biglaw Investor, we recognize that everyone’s legal career path is different. One thing that remains constant among lawyers一as well as all people in life一is an inevitable bump in the road. Whether you struggle with finances or find yourself faced with an unexpected situation, we are here to support you in any way we can.

We know what you’re thinking: what am I staring at? Good question! We created a law firm layoff tracker, the only one of its kind, to monitor law firms that lay off lawyers. The purpose of this tracker is to provide readers with a steady source of layoff data surrounding the most well-known law firms in the country.

More importantly, the tracker provides lawyers who have been laid off with clarity. We want lawyers who have been laid off unexpectedly or without much feedback to know one thing: it is probably not your fault. Read on as we explain the breakdown of our tracker, go over key terms, and help you decide where to go from here. s mass layoffs for lawyers and staff layoffs happen, this provides valuable information to everyone from law students to partners in the legal profession.

From Wall Street in New York or the suburbs in New Jersey to San Francisco and many places in between, law firm layoffs are a part of the business cycle of law firms and the economy as a whole.

Related: Are Legal Jobs Secure?

Breakdown of the law firm layoff tracker  

Our layoff tracker uses specific categories to help our readers understand the extent of the layoffs, the context behind them, and any relevant implications. Below, we have included a list of the categories, along with a brief explanation. 

Some of these categories may seem pretty self-explanatory, but it’s important to have a clear understanding before we delve in. 

Type and number of layoffs  

Each layoff is considered either an “open” or “stealth” layoff. An open layoff can best be described as a layoff that was, well, “openly” announced by the law firm. On the other hand, a stealth layoff is a non-traditional (but increasingly common) way of disguising an economic-based reduction in a firm as one that is performance-based. We discuss stealth layoffs in depth later in this article. The number of layoffs is also listed, varying from as small as 1-10, as large as 50+, or unknown.

Location and date

The tracker includes the location where the layoffs occurred. This could be one location, multiple locations, or considered “firmwide,” meaning the layoffs aren’t tied to a particular area. The date listed is the approximate date from which the layoffs took place. 

Severance and healthcare

A severance package is the pay and benefits a laid off lawyer would receive from the firm. This can vary in length of coverage between a few weeks to a few months. Similar to severance, firms can also provide health insurance for a specific duration of time. Unfortunately, this data is often sparse because there is less information available to the public about the type of severance and health packages received. 

If you are a lawyer who has been laid off, we want to hear from you! We encourage you to share as much information as you can using the Have a Tip? feature. Why? By sending in this information, the tracker will reflect the most accurate data possible. Biglaw firms have a broad range of responses when it comes to layoffs and how they choose to handle them. The entire legal industry has undergone major changes in the last year and from the pandemic before that, with closures, mergers, hiring freezes, and more impacting plenty of people. With a potential recession and downturn coming, biglaw associates and mid-level employees should pay attention

Vault rankings

Each law firm listed on our tracker may or may not have a designated Vault ranking, depending on how they measured up to other firms. The Vault company focuses on multiple industries such as law, consulting, investment banking, etc. Vault ranks law firms based on the following factors: prestige, diversity, quality of life, and overall best working environment. We include Vault rankings for reference, but it’s important to note that not all of the firms are in the “Vault 100”, the top hundred law firms.

Sources 

We include all the sources in the tracker, in order to maintain the reliability of our data. You can source the data by clicking on the name of the law firm, and it will take you to the post that includes the date, time, and original source used. 

Understanding stealth layoffs  

While we provided a basic definition of a stealth layoff under the breakdown section above, it’s important to give a fuller explanation. To further illustrate the idea of a stealth layoff, we have included a hypothetical scenario in which a stealth layoff occurs:

Bob Jacobs, a graduate of NYU Law, was beyond thrilled to be offered a full-time associate position at a prestigious law firm. Having been a summer associate the year prior, he enjoyed the work environment and was excited to join full-time. Over the next two years, he received stellar feedback at every meeting with his supervisor. Bob was confident in the work he had put in and felt he was doing a great job. 

Months later, Bob is shocked to find out that he is being let go due to “performance-based issues.” He is offered a three-month severance package and healthcare through the end of the year. Bob is told that his name and contact information will remain on the law firm’s website for the duration of his severance, and he won’t be working during this time. To the outside world, it will appear that Bob is still working for them; in reality, Bob has three months to find a new job. 

The scenario shown above is a stealth layoff in a nutshell. Cruel, right? It might make you wonder why law firms even do it in the first place. Well, the word “stealth” itself implies avoiding detection. In other words, stealth layoffs are used as a way to discreetly lay off lawyers, without having to deal with the public repercussions of taking away people’s jobs. In these cases, performance reviews may not be a real indication of what’s coming with a slowdown in hiring and promotions. Even the top law firms are anticipating a possible slowdown.

Another awful part about stealth layoffs is attributing the reason for job termination as performance-based. This transfers the blame of the layoff onto the employee and off of the firm. This could lead to lawyers second-guessing their abilities, adding more fuel to the fire of imposter syndrome. Bringing us back to the purpose of the Biglaw layoff tracker, we want our readers to be aware of the law firms that may or may not have participated in stealth layoffs. This could help connect the dots for people who have been unexpectedly laid off despite having a previous track of excellent performance. 

Post-layoff 

So now that we have a better understanding of stealth layoffs, you may be asking yourself: what do I do now? You may be feeling lost, confused, and uncertain about the future. While no one deserves to experience a stealth layoff, everyone deserves to know how to go about managing the aftermath of one. In this section of the article, we will outline some important things to factor in as you navigate a post-layoff reality. We encourage you to use any and all advice that is helpful for you.    

For everyone from first-year associates to those with more experience in the firm or an in-house role, a layoff can come as a shock and can be a hard blow to your mental health. While the demand for legal services remains steady, some practice areas don’t grow at the same pace as others. Those graduating from law school should be prepared to make a few possible career moves in light of rise of stealth layoffs.

Leaving slowly or quickly: things to consider after your layoff 

One of the most important things to consider after being laid off is whether or not you want to leave the firm immediately or remain loosely associated. It is necessary to have a full understanding of the benefits of each option before deciding for yourself. 

One of the main reasons people leave immediately is to have the ability to walk away and not worry about tying up loose ends. Remember that if you stay for a few months, the firm’s website will most likely include your photo on their page. What does this mean? All of your clients, co-workers, and other acquaintances from work will still associate you with the firm. In other words, you will still carry the mental burden of being associated with a firm that has chosen to lay you off. This could be less than ideal for people who simply want to cut ties and move on. 

A benefit to leaving immediately is quicker access to unemployment benefits. Unless you find that there is a strong reason to remain on the website (we will go more in-depth about this later), leaving immediately could be the best option. It ultimately comes down to the following: importance of visibility on the firm’s website, negotiating the best severance and health package, and finding another job. 

Two reasons you may want to continue being associated with the firm are maximizing your chance of finding a job and properly negotiating a severance and health insurance package. Staying on the website means a few things. For one, it may make it easier to leverage your connections in the firm to find a new job. In addition, it will allow you the “privacy” of figuring out your career prospects while appearing as though you are still a part of the firm. More importantly, staying for a few months may allow you to better advocate for the best post-layoff package your firm can provide. After all, you deserve it! 

 Related: Leaving Bloated Biglaw Behind  

Negotiating healthcare and severance packages 

The idea of negotiating healthcare and severance packages can be a contentious topic. People worry that negotiating will make it seem like they’re begging for money; they also worry that they could burn ties if they push too hard. 

While these feelings are valid, we encourage you to reframe how you think about this. Instead of viewing it as a burden, think of negotiating as a way to solve a problem for the firm. When a law firm lays off a lawyer, they want to make it as amicable as possible. After all, the purpose of conducting a stealth layoff is to discreetly get rid of an employee with as little backlash as possible. So in theory, you are offering a solution that would allow for a clean exit, and that is the best possible scenario for the firm! 

Let’s go over some sample solutions you could suggest: 

  1. If the firm gives you 4 months of severance, go back to them and ask for 6 months of severance; in return, you can offer to sign a severance agreement promising that you won’t talk badly about the firm. 
  2. If the firm says they will keep you on the website for 3 months, you could go back and ask for them to keep you on the website for 6 months, even if they are not compensating you the whole time. Better yet, you could suggest that they pay you what you would’ve been paid in 3 months over a span of 6 months. 
  3. If the firm offers you other benefits apart from the severance (think healthcare benefits and other perks), advocate for yourself! It certainly does not hurt to ask. 

See? That’s not so scary. You need to look at it from their perspective. They want to solve the problem as quickly and effectively as possible. By helping you receive the package you want, there are no bad feelings. In fact, you may leave being more satisfied, which is less guilt on their end. 

Related: Is an Emergency Fund Necessary?

Searching for another job 

Let’s assume you negotiated your package and you’re now leaving your firm (mostly) satisfied. The next step is figuring out how to search for a job. We have three pieces of advice for navigating the process. 

  1. Utilize mutual connections. While some people may grow tired of creating LinkedIn connections, taking advantage of its networking functions may yield greater job prospects. Form LinkedIn connections with everyone you know at the firm. By doing this, you are maximizing your chances of finding second-level connections at other firms you may want to work at. These connections are key to getting your foot in the door. 
  2. Take advantage of career outplacement services. Most firms offer outplacement services that are supposed to help you transition out of your current firm. They offer many resources which could include a trained career coach. Though outplacement services aren’t always the most helpful, it doesn’t hurt to exhaust all your ex-firm’s resources. After all, they’re paying for it!
  3. Work for a client at the firm. If you still have a good relationship with the firm and you’re aware of their clients, you may be able to work for them. In fact, your firm may be supportive and help you pursue that opportunity. Don’t forget that you being laid off is less a reflection of your work and more a business decision. Therefore, your firm may be willing to help you land that new job.

Related: The Best Legal Recruiters 

Overall 

There is no doubt that navigating the post-layoff process is difficult. We hope that our Biglaw layoff tracker will provide you with the clarity to realize that it is not your fault. Even if you haven’t been laid off, being aware of the law firms that are doing layoffs is still a good thing. As a legal community, it’s important we stick together and ensure that everyone is as informed as possible. We encourage you to check out more of our blog posts if you are interested in other ways to put your best foot forward (financially of course).