Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner Announces Staff Layoffs in Alignment with Industry Trends

In a move reflective of the changing landscape of the legal industry, global law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner announced on Thursday the layoff of 47 of its business services professionals across its international offices. This reduction in staff represents the latest in a series of such decisions by law firms over recent months.

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner, boasting a strong workforce of around 1,275 lawyers across 31 offices, confirmed plans to cut 34 roles within the United States and 13 in its offices spread across Europe, Middle East, and Asia. The reductions predominantly target secretarial and administrative positions within the U.S., cited as “having excess capacity” in light of an exhaustive review of the firm’s support ratios.

The law firm maintains that this strategic move is intended to realign its workforce in accordance with industry trends, technological advancements, and the evolving demands of the law firm itself. In an official statement, a firm spokesperson ensured that no lawyers were affected by the layoffs.

This decision follows a larger trend within the legal industry. Multiple large firms have implemented layoffs amongst their lawyers and professional staff members since late last year. This shift is largely in response to a decline in the demand for legal services following a significant expansion of these firms in 2021 and early 2022 to accommodate surging corporate deal work. However, with global M&A activity slowing, firms are now grappling with a decrease in demand.

Earlier in May, Dechert similarly laid off 55 lawyers and 43 business professionals, comprising 5% of its global workforce. This decision was attributed to an evaluation of the firm’s “existing and projected demand” for its services. Other law firms, including Cooley, Goodwin Procter, Gunderson Dettmer Stough Villeneuve Franklin & Hachigian, Lowenstein Sandler, Davis Wright Tremaine, Perkins Coie, Shearman & Sterling, and Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, have also announced layoffs since last fall.

An up-to-date report by the Thomson Reuters Institute indicates slower expense growth among large and midsize firms in Q1 of 2023. The report also suggests an increasing demand for counter-cyclical practices such as litigation and labor and employment, hinting at a potential new equilibrium in the industry.

In 2022, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner generated approximately $845.2 million in gross revenue, reflecting a 3.8% decrease from 2021, as reported by The American Lawyer. On average, the top 100 U.S. law firms experienced a 2.7% increase in gross revenue last year, with profits per equity partner slipping by 3.7%.

Despite these staff cuts, Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner emphasized in Thursday’s announcement its continued evolution through strategic decisions. This includes the recent hiring of 10 partners since January and the inauguration of a new office in Seattle this April.

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