Patton Boggs Fires 22 Associates Among 65 Cut at Law Firm

Washington law firm Patton Boggs LLP fired 65 staff members yesterday, including 22 associates, managing partner Edward J. Newberry, said, citing increasing economic pressures in the legal services business.

“We are one of the only large firms in the U.S. that made no reductions during any point during the recession,” Newberry, 50, said today in an interview. “What we’re doing is exactly what a prudent firm would do in aligning revenues and headcount.”

The reductions came as a result of several large litigation matters, which Newberry declined to identify, that are winding down.

Patton Boggs financial performance in 2012 wasn’t particularly strong, Newberry said. Revenue fell 6.5 percent from the $339.7 million posted in 2011.

Firings may reflect weaknesses at a firm or can be a sign of good management, said Ward Bower, a principal at law firm consultant Altman Weil Inc.

“Anybody would be smart if they have an opportunity to trade up to do so,” he said. “There’s a lot of talent out there in the job market.”

The 550-lawyer firm had 209 associates before the layoffs. The cuts included three in Denver, three in New York, three in Dallas, four in Washington and the rest in the firm’s Newark, New Jersey, office, Newberry said.

No Partners

The firm also let go eight staff attorneys, 15 staff managers and eight paralegals. No partners were included in the moves, Newberry said, adding that in the past two and a half years the firm has trimmed partners from its ranks. In recent months about 20 partners were asked to find other employment, he said. Those cuts aren’t tied to a declining volume of work, he said.

“It’s a response to a generally competitive environment. Partner productivity becomes particularly important to the success of a law firm,” Newberry said. “Recognizing that, over time, we’re reducing the number of less productive partners.”

Newberry said the firm has made some significant hires since the start of the year, highlighting James T. Jacks, a former U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Texas in the Dallas office and Elizabeth Ames Jones, former chairwoman of the Texas Railroad Commission, who joined the firm in Dallas and Washington.

The firm, which has six U.S. offices and three in the Middle East, is investing in overseas expansion. Patton Boggs last year acquired the Saudi Arabia office of the liquidating Dewey & LeBouef LLP and the partners voted to open an office in Dubai this year.

Newberry also said Patton Boggs had its biggest January revenue in five years this year, a 35 percent jump from a year earlier.

“Assuming we don’t have general additional revenue, we will have a good year,” Newberry said. “If we have general additional revenue we will have an excellent year.”

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.