Texas Firms Didn't Escape The Layoff Massacre Of '09

Texas Flag Capitol Half (AP)

The big news last year was layoffs at big New York firms. But the numbers for the largest Texas firms have finally been uncovered.

Things weren’t so great in the Lone Star state.

The lawyer headcount at 25 of the 26 largest firms dropped by 5.7 per cent overall, Brenda Sapino Jeffreys of the Texas Lawyer reported. (One firm declined to provide its numbers.)

Texas Lawyer: Several of the BigTex firms posted Texas lawyer count declines in excess of 10 per cent. Hunton & Williams, which has offices in Dallas, Austin and Houston, lost a net of 26 lawyers between Jan. 1, 2009, and Jan. 1, 2010, a decline of 17.3 per cent. The decline was 15.1 per cent at Thompson & Knight of Dallas; 14 per cent at Akin Gump Strauss Hauer & Feld of Dallas; 13.1 per cent at Winstead of Dallas, 10.9 per cent at Weil, Gotshal & Manges, which has offices in Dallas and Houston; and 10.4 per cent at San Antonio’s Cox Smith Matthews.

Hunton & Williams attributed a portion of its big decline to a “normal evaluation process” that their managing partner Patrick Mitchell declined to call layoffs. 

(As an aside, call things what they are. Surely they would not prefer firing? A whole lot of firms, including big ones in Texas and New York with their big important reputations, did a lot of “stealth” layoffs. They were “performance based” and people were often given some time to find another job. But when you are told you have three months to get out, and in a better economy there’s no way you would have been asked to leave, it’s a lay-off. Period.)

So what’s next? Texans are optimistic about 2010.

Texas Lawyer: “There’s no denying 2009 was an unbelievably challenging year, and we are all very happy to have it behind us. There was simply significantly reduced demand for legal services in general due to the down economy … with the very obvious exception of our financial reorganising practice,” Menges says.

He says the firm plans to step up lateral hiring this year and expects other Texas firms to do the same.

“I do not expect the largest law firms in Texas to continue shrinking this year. I expect more than a few of us to grow, and Akin Gump wants to be one of those that grow,” Menges says.

Read Texas Lawyer’s full report, with additional and more detailed numbers, here.



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