One by one, Biglaw firms that introduced austerity measures in the spring due to the coronavirus crisis are now reversing them, but in some cases, the news isn’t all good. When announcing salary cut reversals, some firms have managed to slip in news about layoffs in the same breath.
Back in April, Seyfarth — a firm that posted $717,370,000 gross revenue in 2019, earning it the 60th place on the latest Am Law 100 ranking — rolled out firmwide cost-cutting measures effective May 1, ranging from salary cuts to furloughs of attorneys and staff. Equity partners reduced their monthly draws by 20 percent, all U.S. lawyers had their pay reduced by 10 percent, and staff salaries were cut up to 10 percent based on earnings. The firm also furloughed 10 percent of its U.S. employees, and at the time, sources told us that 180 staff and 50 attorneys were taken out of play.
Today, the firm is announcing not only the reversal of its salary cuts, but the layoffs of some of those who were furloughed — including attorneys.
Here’s a statement from Pete Miller, Chair and Managing Partner of Seyfarth Shaw:
Over the last few months, we have faced incredible challenges, but we have been quick to adapt, supporting each other and responding to our clients’ needs while implementing a series of necessary economic measures to ensure the firm’s success moving forward. Our targets have shifted, but with hard work, our firm’s performance has exceeded our revised forecast. As a result, effective October 1 and going forward, we will be returning all staff to their full 2020 salaries and restoring attorney compensation. In addition, we have been able to bring back some of our furloughed employees.
However, we have also had to make the difficult decision that some staff and a small number of attorneys who were furloughed in April will not return. The affected employees will be provided severance packages, including a minimum of two months of severance, regardless of how long they have been with the firm. The remainder of those furloughed will stay on furlough until the end of the year, at which time we will revisit their status. We will continue to pay their health insurance premiums and will bring them back sooner if the needs of our clients and the firm support it.
Miller continued, noting that the decision to let go some of the staff and attorneys who were furloughed was “largely a result of underutilization” due to the way work changed during the pandemic and the way the firm will work in the future. “Decisions like these that impact our colleagues are never easy to make. This has been an extremely difficult time, and we are grateful for the resilience and dedication our firm has shown in the face of extreme circumstances,” he said.
Best of luck to all those who are affected by the layoffs at Seyfarth.
If your firm or organization is slashing salaries or restoring previous cuts, closing its doors, or reducing the ranks of its lawyers or staff, whether through open layoffs, stealth layoffs, or voluntary buyouts, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Our vast network of tipsters is part of what makes Above the Law thrive. You can email us or text us (646-820-8477).
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Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn.