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Bose lays off lawyers

Elizabeth Brockett
April 1, 2009
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Economic Impact

Bose McKinney & Evans, Indianapolis’ fifth largest law firm, is cutting 25 employees, including 10 attorneys, because of the recession.

This is the first public announcement in Indiana of any lawyer layoffs as a result of the economic downturn.

Ken Crook, Bose managing partner, said the “reduction in force” would affect two paralegals and 13 support staff in addition to the attorney cuts â?? all at the downtown Indianapolis office. He announced the cuts March 26 and told Indiana Lawyer they would be effective within a week. The layoffs affected employees in the litigation, business, real estate, and intellectual property practice groups.

CrookCrook said the recession continues to affect the firm’s clients and therefore certain practices within the firm. He added, “the silver lining, if there is one” is the realign- ment will help position the firm to continue to effectively serve its clients into the future.

Firm management met with employees the day the cuts were announced to discuss how the layoffs will impact the firm. Crook said they provided some more information about the reduction beyond what was formally announced. He declined to talk more about what employees were told.

He also said there was no correlation that the reduction came near the end of the first quarter, and he declined to talk about how the firm decided which positions to cut.
These cuts are on top of the 11 administrative and operational staff positions the firm eliminated in January.

Other Indiana firms have also reduced support staff in recent months but deny those were because of the tumultuous economy.

Many other firms nationally are making similar cuts because of the economy and these measures are painful but necessary, Crook said.

Looking ahead, he anticipates the economy will be soft through 2009. However, the firm will continue its summer associate program.

Bose McKinney & Evans had 137 attorneys as of Jan. 22, 2009, according to the Indianapolis Business Journal’s list of largest Indianapolis-area law firms. The firm has two offices each in Indianapolis and Northwest Indiana and one each in West Lafayette, Washington, D.C., and Raleigh, N.C.

Every law firm

Don’t read too much into the Indianapolis attorney layoffs, said William Henderson, associate professor of law at Indiana University Maurer School of Law â?? Bloomington and director of the Law Firms Working Group, a research network devoted to the study of the law firm.

“Every corporate law firm in the country is experiencing a downturn because their clients are,” Henderson said.

Henderson said that for a mid-size, Midwest market, Indianapolis’ market is stronger than most.

Most law firms are based on a model that requires firm growth, he said, but it’s one that doesn’t work well with today’s economy. As firms build their workforce, they also incur more costs â?? more people, more space, more technology.

“Clients are hurting for cash flow so they’re looking at their legal budgets for the first time,” said Henderson, who rhetorically asked where money is going to come from to support all firm’s attorneys if there’s no increased revenue and the work isn’t there.

There’s no way of counting how many attorneys have been let go in Indiana or nationwide because many firms make cuts with no public announcements and say it’s because of performance, even if it’s really because of the economy, said Henderson. That reasoning makes it harder for those who have lost their jobs, he believes.

“I’d rather be let go because of the economy. The reason is less hurtful and painful than a stealth layoff,” said Henderson, noting that it’s easier to tell a potential employer you were let go because of the economy than for performance.

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