Holland & Knight axes 60 lawyers

170 support staff to go as firm undergoes structural review

Holland & Knight has cut 60 fee-earning positions and laid off 170 support staff in its most dramatic cost-saving attempt to date. Partners, counsel and associates are among the 60 to be made redundant.
The Florida-based firm has been forced to cull staff due to overcapacity from a series of mergers over the past decade. Expansion has been at the forefront of the firm’s strategy for some time and managing partner Robert Feagin said that as a result, some contraction was necessary.
The firm has offices in 25 US locations and operates in Brazil, Finland, Israel, Japan, Mexico and Venezuela. Half of the layoffs are predicted to affect Holland & Knight’s 11 offices in Florida.
The cutbacks follow a structural review conducted by Deloitte & Touche. In a prepared statement, Feagin said: “We performed an extensive review and found that these steps are necessary to better align our firm’s internal resources – people and practice groups – to more efficiently serve the changing legal needs of our clients. Law firms, like all other organisations, aren’t immune to the effects of a slower economy.”
Feagin has previously cited economic pressures when announcing the decision to cut partner bonuses and freeze associate salaries. These overhead-reducing ploys have now been supplanted by the ultimate cost-saving device – redundancy.
In January, the Miami Daily Business Review published a memo from partner Martin Jaron, criticising the expansion-driven model and claimed that partner confidence in the firm’s direction and management was low.
Feagin said: “These actions and other cost-cutting measures are necessary to ensure the firm will continue to thrive and grow. A focus centred on our strong reputation for exceptional client service will guide our future plans and strategy.”
Former managing partner Bill McBride said that, if he was still managing the firm, he might have made similar changes. Although McBride is no longer at Holland & Knight, the cutbacks could spell trouble for his forthcoming political campaign. McBride left the firm last year to run for governor. He is up against former US Attorney-General Janet Reno for the Democratic nomination in the race to oust current Repub-lican Governor Jeb Bush.
His opponents have already sought to make political capital out of Holland & Knight’s troubles. McBride has stood on the strength of his ability to run the state’s largest law firm. Some have argued that his expansionist vision, taking the firm to 1,250 lawyers, was fulfilled at the expense of profitability.