Howrey chairman Robert Ruyak said declining gross revenue forced the firm to cut partners in an attempt to retrench and sharpen the focus on litigation.
The firm this week said it had cut between 25 and 30 partners, including what Ruyak said was a "small number" of equity partners. Last year, Howrey's gross revenue fell to $480 million, marking a decline of 16.3 percent. Its profits per equity partner plunged 34.9 percent, to $846,053.
Ruyak said that in October, during the firm’s biannual compensation review, practice leaders began evaluating how each lawyer fit with the firm’s three practices (antitrust, global litigation, and intellectual property litigation). If they decided a lawyer no longer fit, he met with them to discuss their future at Howrey. The last of those meetings took place last month, Ruyak said.
“This was not like we forced people out the door. We did a careful strategic analysis to determine whether they fit with our core as a firm. If they didn’t, we discussed how this was be an opportunity for them to move to a firm where they could be more successful with their practice,” Ruyak said.
The lawyers that the firm targeted for reductions, Ruyak said, had practices that focused on patent and trademark prosecution, environmental, and some insurance recovery matters. “Those areas just aren’t a good fit for us,” Ruyak said.
This is not the first time the firm has taken steps to cut practices from the firm that “are not part of our strategic mission as a litigation firm,” Ruyak said. In 2008, eight lawyers were let go for similar reasons. And in 2000, the firm went through a round of cuts as the firm restructured into a litigation-only shop.
In February the firm laid off 29 associates and 65 staff members. “This move isn’t like the associate layoffs, which came simply because we had too many people. Some of these people saw their practices struggling because they didn’t quite fit with what we’re doing here. This was about the long term for both them and the firm,” Ruyak said.
He said that the firm provided outplacement counseling and that most if not all of the lawyers who were let go have found jobs elsewhere. “We’re very happy they have found a better fit."