Layoffs Continue at Law Firms - By Legal Strategies Group LLC

The first three quarters of 2017 have seen a continuation of soft demand among the AmLaw 200. Not surprisingly, law firms have responded with layoffs of support staff. Since most firms have already reduced their ongoing operating costs, the only vehicle left to lower costs further is to eliminate people. While layoffs are occasionally required in any business, law firms seem to resort to this cost-saving method all too often. These layoffs are not only bad for firm culture and morale, the benefits are short-lived. Staffing levels quickly return to previous levels and, in some firms, exceed previous numbers. Following are three recommendations to avoid unnecessary layoffs in the future:

  1. Perform an organizational review of the firm’s overall staffing on an annual basis. This review will provide the foundation for current staffing levels and the people holding these positions. Few firms take the time to look at staffing in this manner, which should determine the necessity of these roles. A typical justification for additional resources is that the current staff is overworked. In reality, people are often in the wrong position, sufficient supervision and direction could be lacking, and no one at the firm is tasked with looking for efficiencies. A thorough assessment and evaluation ensures that job descriptions are accurate and the functions they are performing are needed and provide value. Also, it will verify that the right people are in the right job.

  2. Someone needs to be responsible for and held accountable for efficiencies within the firm in both the attorney and administrative areas. These individuals need to understand and be part of the strategic vision for the firm. Adding attorneys to practice groups while lawyers within the firm have availability should no longer occur. Lawyers have to be productive and evolve their skills to serve a diverse set of clients. Also, the days of adding personnel to administrative areas should be over. The overall goal should be to reduce the number of people in administrative areas through the use of technology and operational efficiencies.

  3. Utilize metrics as part of the assessment and evaluation of efficiencies of administrative areas. Metrics are commonly used to assess the firm’s overall health and evaluate individual attorneys and practice areas. The utilization of metrics to evaluate staffing and effectiveness of effort adds the benefit of objective data to the current evaluation process. Metrics add a dimension of knowing the benefits received for dollars expended.

Above are a few suggestions to assist in the management of staffing at all levels within a firm. If you do not have the time to implement these type of policies and procedures, do not be afraid to ask for help!

About Legal Strategies Group LLC

The Legal Strategies Group LLC (LSG) is a consulting firm that provides objective, strategic business advice to law firm leaders exclusively. We help firms take a fresh look at financial, marketing, and organizational issues ensuring that your firm achieves its maximum potential. With years of experience, we know lawyers, how they work, and have a proven track record of success. LSG is a proud affiliate of the GLC Law Firm Consulting Group.

About the Authors

Barry Strauss and Donna Corini are former in-house senior executives with more than 20 years of law firm experience advising leaders on issues of revenue enhancement, profitability, marketing, and organizational excellence. Barry can be reached at 202.288.2095 or barry@legalstrategiesgroup.com. Donna can be reached at 703.627.3470 or donna@legalstrategiesgroup.com .