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Small Firms Crushed By Layoff Wave
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Pircher, Nichols & Meeks, a 75-attorney real estate firm with offices in Los Angeles and Chicago, is laying off eight attorneys and four staff.

Will litigate for food

Founder Leo J. Pircher told The National Law Journal that “commercial real estate work has declined in the last six months, and our clients have told us that it is not likely to pick up substantially in 2009.”


Pircher praised the laid off attorneys and staff as “fine and competent people,” but “there certainly isn’t enough commercial real estate work to go around.”

Jon Lindsey of the legal recruiting consultant firm Major, Lindsey & Africa:

“Layoffs are tough at a small firm, where the person making the decision knows you, your family, your situation. It is harder to pull the trigger. But this economy hurts everybody. Small firms no longer are getting the work that big firms were sending out a year ago. Big firms are cutting rates and trying to compete. Smaller firms have lower billing rates and can compete on price. It is the way of the world.”

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Lindsey told NLJ that he expects to see attorneys laid off in December. That’s because firms may want to keep all their layoff expenses on their 2008 books instead of having those costs bleed into 2009.

“They can start the new year with a clean slate and put the expense of severance on the 2008 books. Some firms have decided that’s the way to go, because 2008 will be bad anyway. They are hoping that 2009 will be better.

A client advisory from Hildebrandt International, a Chicago-based professional services firm, issued in late October recommended that law firms lay off employees in 2008 in order to have a stronger start to 2009. James Jones, a vice president of Hildebrandt International, thinks most firms are finished showing workers the door for 2008.


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