Make us your home page
Instagram

The nation's biggest law firms shed record number of lawyers

By coincidence, I spent some time recently sitting next to a brand spankin' new lawyer. He was fresh out of the University of Florida law school, and the University of Central Florida before that.

He was finishing his first week at the Tampa-based Carlton Fields law firm as the newest member of its white-collar crime division, where lawyers mostly defend people and businesses against claims of fraud or embezzlement or bribery or some similar type of alleged wrongdoing.

The new lawyer was a lucky young man (and he knew it). Many major law firms are taking it on the chin in this recession and downsizing dramatically. Apparently, he had picked his employer well. Carlton Fields, the largest law firm with headquarters in the Tampa Bay area, added lawyers to its staff this year as many other firms slashed their ranks.

The National Law Journal, which tracks law firm jobs each year, on Monday reported the biggest drop ever in total employment at the nation's 250 largest law firms. The total number of attorneys for the group declined by 4 percent this year, from 131,928 in 2008 to 126,669 in 2009.

That means the total number of attorneys working at the top 250 law firms fell by 5,259. This is only the third time that attorney totals have declined since the law journal started tracking law firm numbers in 1978.

Okay, so this is the natural spot in a column about lawyer layoffs to get an obligatory joke out of the way.

"You're a high-priced lawyer! If I give you $500, will you answer two questions for me?" "Sure," says the attorney. "What's the second question?"

Moving on … news that any major law firm lost more than a quarter of its attorneys would typically shock the legal world. But not so much these days. New York firm Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson had the largest percentage head count decline among the biggest 250 U.S. firms, dropping 168 attorneys — 26 percent — between October 2008 and October 2009. Here's a sampler of area firms and how they fared this past year, according to the National Law Journal:

• Carlton Fields, Tampa's largest, gained three attorneys, bringing its total to 277. It ranks 154th in the top 250.

• Tampa's Fowler White Boggs ranked No. 211 in 2008 with 201 attorneys but fell off this year's list. Last year, the firm's insurance defense practice broke away because of potential conflicts of interest. And last week, about 10 business lawyers led by Burton Wiand left to form their own firm, leaving Fowler White with fewer than 130 attorneys.

• Miami's Akerman Senterfitt, which has more than 40 lawyers in Tampa, increased its size by 20 attorneys.

• New York's Greenberg Traurig, the country's eighth-largest law firm, with about two dozen attorneys in Tampa, shed 56 lawyers.

• Holland & Knight, the 19th-largest law firm — with about 65 attorneys in Tampa Bay — lost 92 legal positions this past year.

• Gray Robinson of Orlando, with more than 40 attorneys in Tampa, added 22 lawyers this past year. It now ranks 178th.

They say this is a good time to be a client. Survival-driven law firms are more fee-conscious and willing to cut deals to keep customers.

This law climate won't last. So live it up while you can.

Robert Trigaux can be reached at [email protected]

The nation's biggest law firms shed record number of lawyers 11/09/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 10, 2009 6:14pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Massachusetts firm buys Tampa's Element apartment tower

    Real Estate

    TAMPA — Downtown Tampa's Element apartment tower sold this week to a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company that plans to upgrade the skyscraper's amenities and operate it long-term as a rental community.

    The Element apartment high-rise at 808 N Franklin St. in downtown Tampa has been sold to a Northland Investment Corp., a Massachusetts-based real estate investment company. JIM DAMASKE  |  Times
  2. New York town approves Legoland proposal

    News

    GOSHEN, N.Y. — New York is one step closer to a Lego dreamland. Goshen, a small town about fifty miles northwest of the Big Apple, has approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park.

    A small New York town, Goshen approved the site plan for a $500 million Legoland amusement park. Legoland Florida is in Winter Haven. [Times file  photo]
  3. Jordan Park to get $20 million makeover and new senior housing

    Real Estate

    By WAVENEY ANN MOORE

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG —The St. Petersburg Housing Authority, which bought back the troubled Jordan Park public housing complex this year, plans to spend about $20 million to improve the 237-unit property and construct a new three-story building for …

    Jordan Park, the historic public housing complex, is back in the hands of the St. Petersburg Housing Authority. The agency is working to improve the 237-unit complex. But the latest plan to build a new three-story building for seniors will mean 31 families have to find new homes. [LARA CERRI   |   Tampa Bay Times]
  4. Coming soon at two Tampa Bay area hospitals: a cancer treatment that could replace chemo

    Health

    A new cancer treatment that could eventually replace chemotherapy and bone marrow transplants — along with their debilitating side effects — soon will be offered at two of Tampa Bay's top-tier hospitals.

    Dr. Frederick Locke at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa is a principal investigator for an experimental therapy that retrains white blood cells in the body's immune system to fight cancer cells. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved these so-called "CAR-T" treatments for adults this month. In trials, 82 percent of cases responded well to the treatment, and 44 percent are still in remission at least eight months later, Locke said. [CHRIS URSO   |   Times]
  5. Regulator blasts Wells Fargo for deceptive auto insurance program

    Banking

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.

    Wells Fargo engaged in unfair and deceptive practices, failed to properly manage risks and hasn't set aside enough money to pay back the customers it harmed, according to a confidential report by federal regulators.
[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images, 2017]