According to the Daily Journal, six months after merging with a San Diego law firm, McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP, an international law firm with more than 575 attorneys and public policy advisors in 13 offices and 11 markets, is shedding lawyers from Luce Forward Hamilton & Scripps LLP.
McKenna, which practices in the areas of complex litigation, corporate law, energy, environment, family wealth, finance, government contracts, health care, infrastructure, insurance, intellectual property, public policy, real estate, and technology, let go four former Luce attorneys from its San Diego office. The firm let go of 15 attorneys total in the United States. According to an anonymous source, McKenna gave three of the attorneys a 30-day notice on August 20, 2012. The fourth attorney was given more notice. Some legal experts surmise the dismissals as part of McKenna’s plan to remove employees who do not live to productivity standards.
These layoffs come at a time when starting salaries at the nation’s largest firms dropped from $160,000 to $145,000 for law firms with 700 or more attorneys, as reported by The National Jurist. The firms are probably not afraid to lower salaries because people might still be more than willing to accept the jobs since the number of associates hired by law firms with 500 or more attorneys dropped from 4,745 in 2007 to 2,856 in 2011.
NALP, an association for legal career professionals, conducted the study. The drop in salary is a signal that firms are adjusting to a market where people do not want to be charged by the hour, can get forms online through services such as LegalZoom, jobs going overseas, and use independent contract attorneys. Companies like LegalZoom helps people save money by not having to spend on routine legal needs, from incorporations and trademarks to last wills. Small firm practitioners have also gotten into the act of creating wizards to help those who put off creating essential legal documents because of inconvenience and high fees.
According to The National Jurist, nationwide, 46 percent of law firms with more than 700 attorneys reported salaries at $160,000, down from 65 percent in 2009. In 2009, 90 percent of law firms with more than 700 attorneys in Los Angeles and Washington, D.C. reported $160,000 salaries. Some global law firms, which once paid the same salary for all offices, now pay different salaries in different markets. In some places, a salary less than $160,000 is competitive, considering the many unemployed recent law school graduates, and senior attorneys who have lost jobs.