Davis Wright Tremaine lays off staff, citing ‘excess capacity’

Seattle-based firm lets go of 21 professionals; move follows cuts at Cooley and Goodwin Procter

Top 100 US firm Davis Wright Tremaine has let go of 21 professional staff members, becoming the latest US law firm to cut jobs amid more challenging economic conditions. 

The move was announced in a memo sent to staff on Tuesday (7 February) by Scott McCormack, Davis Wright Tremaine’s managing partner. 

McCormack told GLP: “We unfortunately had to lay off some staff in areas where we either had excess capacity or redundancy and misalignment. As I explained in our internal memo, these adjustments enable us to recruit for and make investments in the areas of strategic importance or high demand.”

News of the cuts comes hot on the heels of similar moves at Goodwin Procter and Cooley, with the latter axing 150 employees in the US including nearly 80 attorneys in December.

McCormack told staff in the memo – published by US legal news site Above the Law – that the firm needed to ‘better align’ its capabilities and capacity with current and anticipated workflows. 

‘We have excess capacity in some areas and, with the way we work continuing to evolve, we have some redundancy and misalignment around the skills and capabilities we need to serve our clients,’ he wrote. 

Davis Wright Tremaine had revenue just north of $482m in 2021, according to The American Lawyer, placing it 89th in the Am Law 100. The Seattle-based firm currently houses more than 560 lawyers across its network of 11 US offices and is noted for its media and entertainment practice. 

As per the memo, staff being laid off from the firm will receive severance packages and support from outplacement services. 

This round of layoffs follows Davis Wright Tremaine implementing across-the-board salary cuts and staff furloughs in May 2020 in a bid to cope with the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The firm later dialed back on the measures, saying in September 2020 that it would restore 50% of the salary reductions it had put in place and bring back a number of furloughed staff, though some were permanently laid off. 

Goodwin Procter's recent round of job cuts in response to the economic slowdown affected associates, paralegals and business professionals.

In a 5 January email to staff revealing the move, firm chair Robert Insolia and managing partner Mark Bettencourt wrote that ‘approximately 5%’ of its ‘timekeeper’ and operations personnel had been affected.

That followed a similar move by tech-focused West Coast rival Cooley, which in early December axed 150 employees including 78 attorneys.

Both firms are notable for having recruited heavily during a sustained US deal boom that finally ran out of steam last year – Goodwin’s memo pointed out that the firm’s lawyer population had grown by 60% since October 2019 and that its staffing levels at the time were too high for its projected demand. 

Email your news and story ideas to: [email protected]