Dewey Ballantine is laying off 12 lawyers from its New York office as attrition rates fall to their lowest level in nearly a decade.
The associates, who are from a variety of departments and levels of experience, were told last week that they are being what the firm describes as "outplaced".
Chairman Everett Jassy says they are lawyers who had not reached the firm's expectations for performance, but unusually they had not been offered positions elsewhere so had to be asked to leave.
Jassy says: "We predict the lowest level of attrition this year of any year in the last seven. People usually weed themselves out based on lukewarm reviews or based on their own realisations. This year the lateral market is tighter so people have been staying around and a lot who wouldn't otherwise have been there still are. Even if the market hadn't changed, these people weren't going to be with us but would have left voluntarily."
He says the firm had anticipated a 5 per cent growth of the New York office this year, but because of the low attrition it was higher. It would normally take on around 80 and expect that to drop to 60 in the first few years. But the firm is well on course to meet its budget for the year, and is still taking on lawyers in certain practice areas.
New York recruitment consultant Jerry Kowalski says huge assistant salaries now mean firms are less tolerant of underperforming lawyers. "There was tremendous demand for good corporate lawyers. Now a lot of the dotcoms are disappearing and laying off people and there are fewer deals, so investment banks aren't looking for lawyers."