Aug 2 (Reuters) - Fish & Richardson said Thursday that it
was laying off 14 staff members, the latest in a string of
national law firms to disclose job cuts.
The layoffs affect paralegals and litigation support staff
positions throughout Fish & Richardson, a 364-lawyer firm based
in Boston that specializes in intellectual property law. The
firm attributed the cuts, which were effective Tuesday, to
clients' "smaller budgets for outside legal services."
"While our caseload continues to grow, client demands for
more cost efficiency meant that we needed fewer support
personnel for cases than we did in the past," the law firm said
in a statement. The 14 people affected by the cuts accounted for
less than 2 percent of its total staff, according to a firm
The announcement by Fish & Richardson followed the
disclosure last week of plans to reduce staff at Dorsey &
Whitney, a 530-lawyer firm based in Minneapolis, and Fulbright &
Jaworski, a 850-lawyer firm in Houston.
"Nationally there is a trend towards thinning out
underperfomance," said Kent Zimmermann, a consultant with
Zeughauser Group in Chicago.
Demand for legal services fell 0.2 percent in the second
quarter, according to a report Friday by Hildebrandt Institute's
Peer Monitor Index, which tracks demand as measured by the
growth in billable hours. Corporate work fell 2.1 percent, while
litigation was flat.
The Hildebrandt Institute is a division of Thomson Reuters.
Dorsey in a statement last week said it was eliminating 20
support staff positions, or about 1.6 percent of its 1,200
headcount. The firm attributed the cuts to improvements in
technology, among other factors.
"We can deliver the same high level of client service and
responsiveness with fewer staff than was the case just a few
years ago," the statement said.
On July 26, the blog Above the Law posted an email memo
addressing Fulbright & Jaworski's voluntary severance plan. The
email, dated June 29, could not be independently verified but
was sent by James Dixon, the firm's executive director. It
stated the firm was seeking to "lower our overhead-cost profile"
by offering a voluntary severance program for staff members,
including secretaries and receptionists.
"These steps will help to strengthen our firm and enhance
our competitive position," Dixon wrote.
A call to Dixon was not immediately returned. Neither a
spokesman for Fulbright nor its chairman, Steven Pfeiffer,
responded to requests for comment.
(Reporting By Nate Raymond)
(An earlier version of this story mispelled Zimmermann.)
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