Newly Merged Biglaw Firm Lays Off Attorneys Amid COVID-19 Upheaval

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The Midwestern firm of Taft Stettinius & Hollister finalized its merger with Minneapolis-based Briggs and Morgan in the early days of 2020. Remember January? It seems like several years ago now, before the pall of coronavirus overtook every facet of our lives. Anyway, back then, the merger went off without issue, and the new and improved Taft Law firm looked to break into the Am Law 100.

“There were no hiccups or problems we didn’t anticipate,” said Steven Ryan, the partner in charge of Taft’s Minneapolis office. Taft managing partner Robert Hicks expressed similar sentiments, saying while there was some “scrambling” at one point, “it couldn’t have gone any better.”

Anyway, the world is a very different place now.

Though the firm claims strong financials, they’ve determined the prudent course of action is a regimen of austerity measures. From Taft Law’s statement (available in full on the next page) on the cost-cutting:

Taft substantially out-performed its budgets in 2018 and 2019 and is performing ahead of budget through March 31, 2020. As a result of conservative financial management, Taft maintains a strong balance sheet and liquidity. Notwithstanding its strong financial position, as a result of the significant disruption to the global and United States economies that already has occurred as well as the anticipated, pervasive effects of COVID-19 that almost certainly will disrupt those economies for the next several months, Taft adopted a comprehensive COVID-19 Financial Plan, effective April 1.

So what is the firm doing to cut costs? Well, partner draws were cut by 25 percent, and the firm had to make layoffs — of both attorneys and staff — and they’ve left the door open for additional austerity measures, should they be necessary:

Under Taft’s COVID-19 Financial Plan, all partner draws were reduced by 25% and minimal reductions – spread across all of its seven primary offices – were made in attorney headcount (1.4% firm wide) and staff headcount (3.5% firm wide). Given the significant uncertainty of COVID-19’s financial impact on the firm’s many clients, the forward-looking plan contemplates multiple scenarios and pivot points to help firm leadership select the best course of action based on future information and conditions as they develop.

Taft’s Chairman and Managing Partner Robert J. Hicks had this to say about the firm’s COVID-19 plan:

“We are very thankful for our size, scale and financial strength, together with the remarkable loyalty and culture of our clients and personnel. These advance, conservative measures are merely intended to add to our existing strong financial and liquidity positions so that we can better weather the COVID-19 storm while we help guide our clients through this time. Taft prides itself on looking forward and never hesitating to invest in or protect our future. We view this proactive approach as the appropriate and best practice in this situation.”

If your firm or organization is slashing salaries, closing its doors, or reducing the ranks of its lawyers or staff, whether through open layoffs, stealth layoffs, or voluntary buyouts, please don’t hesitate to let us know. Our vast network of tipsters is part of what makes Above the Law thrive. You can email us or text us (646-820-8477).

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headshotKathryn Rubino is a Senior Editor at Above the Law, and host of The Jabot podcast. AtL tipsters are the best, so please connect with her. Feel free to email her with any tips, questions, or comments and follow her on Twitter (@Kathryn1).

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