Dorsey & Whitney Lays Off Attorneys And Staff, Reduces Pay

By Aebra Coe
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Law360 (May 20, 2020, 11:30 AM EDT) -- Dorsey & Whitney LLP is laying off a "limited number" of staff and attorneys across its U.S. and international offices and temporarily reducing pay for others by as much as 20% in an effort to address the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, the firm announced late Tuesday.

Following up its announcement in April that it was reducing partner distributions, the firm now says it is implementing a "reduction" of its workforce by laying off a "limited number" of employees and is cutting pay for nonpartner attorneys and staff by between 10% and 20% beginning in June, to continue through the end of the year.

Staff members earning less than $150,000 a year in base compensation will not be affected by the pay cuts, the firm said.

"After intense deliberation, we made these hard decisions so that we will continue to be a strong, efficient law firm," Dorsey & Whitney managing partner Bill Stoeri said in a statement. "I am extremely grateful to all of those who have served the firm, and for those who will continue to work to serve our clients in this new environment."

Those impacted by the layoffs were offered severance or benefit arrangements, the firm said.

Additionally, associates and certain other attorneys will see their billable hour guidelines reduced for the year and special productivity bonuses will be provided to some attorneys who qualify at year-end, it said.

The firm is also shortening its summer associate program from 10 weeks to seven and is delaying the start date for this year's first-year associates to Jan. 1, it said.

"There is an emotional toll that goes along with these measures and these times," Stoeri said in the statement. "We counsel our clients every day to make adjustments in anticipation of changing conditions. Shifts in demand and an evolution in the way law firms will work into the future are clear to see on the horizon. We are taking meaningful action now to navigate this new era in alignment with our clients."

Dorsey & Whitney, based in Minneapolis, Minnesota, has 13 offices in the U.S. and offices in China, Canada and England.

The pay cuts and layoffs announced Tuesday come amid a string of similar moves at other large law firms.

Still others are responding to the coronavirus pandemic by providing employees the option to work fewer days per week, with a corresponding drop in pay.

In DLA Piper's non-U.S. offices, attorneys and staff have been given the option to temporarily reduce their working hours between June and September or take a sabbatical, with prorated pay for those choosing to work fewer hours, the firm confirmed Wednesday.

The firm chose to implement the program following the results of an emotional well-being survey.

"We take the health and wellbeing of our people extremely seriously and, in response to feedback from our wellbeing survey and requests from within our firm, we have decided to offer all of our people the option to voluntarily reduce their working hours on a temporary basis or take sabbaticals to help cope with life under lockdown," said Simon Levine, global co-CEO at DLA Piper.

--Editing by Marygrace Murphy.

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