Law firm layoff news ran rampant overseas last week, with Allen & Overy, DLA Piper and Eversheds all confirming office closures and other structural overhauls affecting lawyers and staff.
At Eversheds, up to 166 positions worldwidemade up of 82 lawyers, including partners, as well as 84 staffcould be eliminated as part of a new three-year strategic plan, according to a statement from the firm.
The cuts come as Eversheds, which does not have any offices in the United States, shuffles management in Asia, closes its Denmark office, and changes the way it structures business functions in the United Kingdom. The firm's real estate practice, among others, is also being closely scrutinized. "Our view is that some markets in which we operate have undergone fundamental change, rendering our current structure unsustainable," Eversheds chief executive Bryan Hughes said in the statement.
Allen & Overy, meanwhile, is ramping up efforts to outsource support services to a back office in Belfast. A total of 43 roles will move to the Northern Ireland city, including positions currently held by employees in the United States and in European offices such as Amsterdam, Brussels, Paris and Frankfurt, Germany. The firm said in a release that it will offer relocation packages to those affected, and that no lawyers are included in the changes.
The firm's Belfast operation, which launched in fall 2011, is akin to those of U.S. firms including Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe's Wheeling, W.Va., back office; Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman's Nashville, Tenn., location; and Bingham McCutchen's soon-to-open Lexington, Ky., office.
"With low economic growth across many developed markets, we must ensure we are operating in a way that will deliver the cost efficiencies our clients expect of us, so that we may protect the long-term competitiveness of our business," Wim Dejonghe, the global managing partner for Allen & Overy, said in a statement.
Glasgow office closing
Lastly, a DLA Piper spokesperson confirmed reports in the British legal press that the firm is closing its office in Glasgow, Scotland, shedding its insurance defense practice and consolidating its document production unit. Of the 85 people currently in Glasgow, 45 jobs will be lost, according to the firm.
The changes are similar to efforts being made by Am Law 200 firms, says Zeughauser Group consultant Kent Zimmermann, though so far in 2013 none domestically have garnered such high-profile attention.
"These are not outliers. They're not anomalies," Zimmerman says of the recent layoffs. "It is something that's happening quietly in many, many firms in the industry."
Zimmermann says he's spoken with three managing partners of major firms in recent weeks, each of whom said they plan to make cuts in the first half of the year. (He declined to identify the three firms.)