Dechert cuts 5% of global workforce as Big Law layoffs continue

Top 50 US firm to shed almost 100 lawyers and staff as it begins ‘redundancy process’ in London
London skyline , city escape at sunny day

A redundancy process has kicked off in London Aniczkania; Shutterstock

Dechert is cutting 5% of its global workforce, marking the latest instance of a Big Law firm axing jobs.

The firm is expecting to cut 55 lawyers and 43 business service professionals globally and has started a ‘redundancy process’ in London as part of this exercise. 

A spokesperson for Dechert, which has around 1,000 lawyers across 21 offices, said that subject to the ongoing consultation process in London the firm anticipated around 5% of its global workforce would be impacted. 

“While this was a difficult decision, we continue to execute on the firm’s strategic plan by providing world-class legal service, focusing on areas of growth, bringing high-profile clients and matters to the firm, and advancing innovation in the legal industry,” they added.  

Dechert chairman Andrew Levander and chief executive officer Henry Nassau told staff in a memo published yesterday (9 May) by Above the Law that those affected by the cuts would receive severance benefits and career counselling services. 

‘We have carefully examined existing and projected demand for our legal services and determined that we need to align our staffing levels with demand,’ the memo stated.

In March, Dechert reported a 3.9% decline in revenue to $1.29bn with average profits per equity partner (PEP) down 14.3% to $3.63m. That followed an eye-catching 49% jump in PEP in 2021.

Dechert is one of a number of large US law firms to trim its ranks recently following a marked decline in deal activity last year that led to a 33% fall in global M&A in the second half, according to research by Refinitiv – the sharpest fall since records began in 1980.

Last December Cooley announced it was laying off 150 US employees, including almost 80 attorneys, and the following month Goodwin Procter announced its own round of cuts in the US. Both firms are notable for having recruited heavily over the previous few years to keep pace with booming tech markets during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Since the start of the year Shearman & Sterling, Davis Wright Tremaine, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan and Kirkland & Ellis have also cut staff. Kirkland characterised its letting go of associates as “performance-based decisions” resulting from its attorney review process rather than layoffs.

Dechert has made a quartet of high-profile partner hires in London in recent months. In March, it secured funds partner Sam Kay from Travers Smith and in February it secured a trio of transatlantic antitrust partners from Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe.

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