Please ensure Javascript is enabled for purposes of website accessibility

It’s good work even if you can’t get it

Law firms offering lawyers up to $75,000 not to work

It’s good work even if you can’t get it

Law firms offering lawyers up to $75,000 not to work

Listen to this article

Latham & Watkins, the fourth-largest U.S. law firm, is offering incoming lawyers $75,000 to take the year off.

Latham, which fired 190 lawyers and 250 staff last week, said it is pushing back the start date for all incoming lawyers from Oct. 18 to mid-December, and offering the compensation to those who wait a year to start work. First-year lawyers at Latham make $160,000.

“It is our sincere hope that those who participate in this program will pursue volunteer or community service work,” Latham managing partner Robert Dell said in a statement. It is not a requirement, he said.

The world’s largest law firms are being forced to reduce expenses and fire attorneys and staff as the economic crisis slows financing transactions and work on mergers and acquisitions. Several law firms in the U.K., also facing a slowdown in work, are offering to pay their trainees to defer their start dates for a year.

London-based Norton Rose is offering its incoming trainees, the recent law school graduates who have accepted offers to begin at the firm later this year, as much as 10,000 pounds ($14,081) to defer their start date for a year.

“We’re not unaffected by the current downturn,” Norton Rose spokesman Sean Twomey said Thursday in an interview. “We’ve asked all of them if they want to defer, some of them have said they’ve been interested in doing that.”

Norton Rose is offering the high amount to its trainees scheduled to begin in September who defer for a year, and 5,000 pounds to those set to start in January 2010 who wait until the fall. The firm expects about 20 to 30 percent of the 55 new hires to defer, Twomey said.

As a condition, they must spend the money “in a meaningful and constructive way,” Twomey said. “We want them to benefit in terms of their career, and we want to know that we’re going to benefit from their year off.”

Lovells, also based in London, is offering incoming trainees 5,000 pounds to defer for a full year and 2,500 pounds to push their start date back six months, spokesman Stephen Rowe said today. Lovells said last month it would cut 94 jobs in London, including 18 lawyers.

Chicago-based Baker & McKenzie and DLA Piper, the two largest U.S.-based law firms, are offering 5,000 pounds to incoming trainees in the U.K. to wait a year to begin work. It is the first time DLA Piper has deferred start dates for its trainees and there are no conditions on how the money should be spent, spokeswoman Helen Obi said Thursday. The firm has 90 incoming trainees in the U.K.

DLA Piper, with about 3,700 lawyers, has had several rounds of layoffs because of the weakened economy and slowdown in legal work. In the past month, the firm fired 20 lawyers and 34 staff in its Asia offices, 80 lawyers and 100 staff in the U.S., and as many as 30 lawyers and 110 staff in the U.K.

Latham & Watkins, in last week’s cuts, dismissed 12 percent of the firm’s associates and 10 percent of its paralegals and support staff. The firm said it will give fired lawyers six months’ salary, or as much as $100,000, in severance.

Latham had revenue of $1.9 billion in 2008, down from about $2 billion the year prior. It was the fourth-largest U.S. firm last year with about 2,300 lawyers, according to the National Law Journal, a trade newspaper. DLA Piper was the largest with 3,785 attorneys.

Latest Opinion Digests

See all digests

Top stories

See more news