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The redundancies of 35 Cadwalader Wickersham & Taft US associates, announced last Thursday (10 Janaury), were triggered by extensive due diligence carried out by the firm with clients into the state of the real estate finance market.
Cadwalader management committee member Greg Markel revealed that the firm had been hoping to avoid making redundancies as late as November last year, when it began canvassing clients on their deals pipelines.
"In November we had been looking at the market but had not yet reached a conclusion, as the likely direction of the downturn wasn't clear," Markel said. "We hoped that in the first quarter of 2008 the tide would turn. If so, we wouldn't have taken this action."
Markel added that although "no one knows the future", the information available told Cadwalader that the market was not about to pick up.
The New York firm's move suggests similar cost-cutting measures at other US firms that had been active in the mortgage-backed finance market is now more likely in the first quarter of 2008.
Larry Mullman, a partner at recruitment consultant Major Lindsey & Africa, said Cadwalader's move to lay off lawyers would make it easier for rivals to follow suit.
"You're going to see the fallout from last year start to accelerate," added Mullman.
Cadwalader laid off 35 associates in total, three-quarters of whom worked in New York and the remainder in Charlotte. There were no redundancies in London.