06 Jan 2023

Goodwin Procter embarks on round of US job cuts

Associates, paralegals and business professionals affected; cuts follow similar move at Cooley

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Top 20 US law firm Goodwin Procter has embarked on a round of job cuts in response to the economic slowdown that affects associates, paralegals and business professionals.

The move was revealed to staff in an email by chair Robert Insolia and managing partner Mark T. Bettencourt yesterday (5 January). 

Associates, paralegals and members of the firm’s global operations teams are affected by the cuts across multiple US offices. The email said ‘approximately 5%’ of its ‘timekeeper’ and operations personnel had been affected.

News of the cuts comes hard on the heels of 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.

The Goodwin memo pointed out that the firm’s lawyer population had grown by 60% since October 2019. That expansion was fuelled by record deal activity within the Boston-based firm’s technology and life sciences client base which propelled it to the head of Refinitiv’s 2021 global M&A ranking by volume.

The memo - published by US legal news site Above the Law - said an ‘ongoing slowdown’ had prompted a review of its business, leading it to conclude that ‘our current staffing levels are too high for our current and projected demand.’

The cuts echo lay-offs in the technology market, with Crunchbase reporting last November that more than 85,000 workers in the US tech sector had been laid off to that point in 2022.

Notably, both Cooley and Goodwin chose to be transparent about the cuts, with their memos adopting strikingly similar language.

‘In an industry that has embraced the “stealth” layoff where leadership tries to make individual lawyers feel like it’s the associate’s fault they’ve been let go, we appreciate firms that are straightforward about employment decisions,’ Above the Law wrote. 

It remains to be seen whether Cooley’s and Goodwin’s moves are the start of a trend, or outliers based on the extent of their hiring and particular market exposure.

As recently as last October, Goodwin was unveiling its largest-ever partner round, making up 58 partners concentrated in its private equity, life sciences and technology practices. 

The firm has also been investing heavily in its London and German private equity practices and – also in September – opened in Singapore. 

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