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Kate Reder Sheikh is a managing director in Major, Lindsey and Africa’s Associate Practice Group, covering San Francisco and Silicon Valley. Her focus is on providing a concierge level of service to associates and clients alike.She predicts that law firms may experience more layoffs in the months to come, as well as turn to touchless recruiting and smaller classes of summer associates.While traditionally the legal field has shied away from remote work, the pandemic has proved it’s possible and will only become more popular.”Law firm leases are huge resource vacuums, and if the demand for offices is down, it’s likely that firms may seek smaller, if not more modest, office spaces. A hot-desk system will probably replace the vaunted private office,” she adds.Click here for more BI Prime stories.
As we wait for a vaccine or a proven therapeutic to coronavirus, the law firm community sits in a holding pattern. Associates, partners, and staff are working from home even as shelter-in-place orders are lifted. Each day, we get news updates telling us about salary cuts, furloughs, and the move to fully remote summer programs. It’s not hard to imagine that layoffs are close behind. So, where do we go from here? What does the law firm of the post-coronavirus world look like?LayoffsLast year was a very healthy hiring year for law firms across the country. Per National Association for Law Placement’s “Perspectives on 2019 Law Student Recruiting” report, “Recruiting activity in 2019 was … robust, with offer rates coming out of summer programs reaching the second historic high in as many years. On many metrics, current BigLaw recruiting volume and practices resemble those measured before the recession.”
We were in a boom. It’s possible that some firms became a bit bloated and hired to excess. What will the adjustment look like? It’s hard to believe that we won’t see more layoffs in the near term. Some firms that are well positioned will be able to take advantage of talent coming on the market. It’s likely that some of the talent that will be cut will come from the senior end of the associate spectrum — these are the most expensive employees, and partnership classes are likely to be significantly smaller in the years to come.Firms would be wise to consider alternatives to layoffs, if possible, or at least a thoughtful approach to culling. As a 2018 article in the Harvard Business Review notes, “Companies that shed workers lose the time invested in training them as well as their networks of relationships and knowledge about how to get w
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