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US firm Pillsbury Winthrop has become the latest victim of the downturn, announcing layoffs in its New York office.
Following in the footsteps of Shearman & Sterling, revealed by The Lawyer to be the first New York firm to make major cutbacks (The Lawyer, 29 October), Pillsbury Winthrop is axing 10 per cent of its New York associates. The firm is a 900-lawyer national force formed out of the merger earlier this year of West Coast firm Pillsbury Madison & Sutro and New York's Winthrop Stimson Putnam & Roberts. The firm has 75 partners and counsel in the New York office and 110 associates. In an internal announcement, the managing partner of the office Donald Kilpatrick said that the cuts were strictly economic and not based on performance. The memo read: "For reasons that are well known to us all, both the economy and client demand have declined in the last six weeks. It is evident that we need to act decisively to both reduce our costs and ensure that our attorneys have a reasonable workload." He said that the affected associates had been informed and given three months notice. They are able to stay at the firm during that time and are being given out-placement counselling. In the firm's structure there is a lot of autonomy for each office, with office management responsible to the managing board for its own affairs. Kilpatrick said the decision to make cutbacks in New York was made by the New York office management committee, and then supported by the managing board of the firm. In a separate statement to the whole firm, Pillsbury chair Mary Cranston and vice-chair John Pritchard said: "While our practice mix and cost reduction indicators have stood us in good stead for the first 13 months of the recession, since September we're seeing a sharper decline in daily productivity. "This has led the managing board to conclude reluctantly and with sadness that we must consider some significant fiscal cutbacks, including attorney layoffs in some offices." The New York office is largely dedicated to capital markets and global corporate deals, which have been the biggest victims of the slowdown.