Akerman, Taft Join Firms Rolling Back COVID-19 Pay Cuts

By Clarice Silber
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Law360 (November 16, 2020, 3:01 PM EST) -- Akerman LLP and Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP are the latest firms to announce restorations of pay to workers after instituting pay cuts early in the coronavirus pandemic to brace for a potential drop in business.

Akerman said in an email that the firm eliminated its pandemic-induced pay reductions for all employees at the beginning of November. Akerman has also reimbursed all its employees for those reductions by paying them a bonus that included the withheld pay.

Akerman's Chairman and CEO Scott Meyers said in a statement that the end of the firm's successful fiscal year was a team effort.

"Everyone came together to address the challenges of this fiscal year and truly stepped up to meet the moment," Meyers said.

Akerman said most partners, of counsel and consultants previously saw a 12.5% reduction in their salaries on an annualized basis. Serrano said associates had received a 7.5% cut in their compensation on an annualized basis.

Taft, which had reduced partner salaries by 25% from April through August, told Law360 on Friday that full pay has been restored to partners and that it has also made restoration payments to make up for the lost income.

Taft chairman and managing partner Robert J. Hicks said the firm had decided to instate those pay cuts as a precautionary measure, having the 350 partners shoulder the burden while the firm also eliminated extraneous expenses.

"And all of a sudden we are actually well ahead of budget for the year now, which is just shocking, honestly," Hicks said. "If you had asked me in March what the likelihood of that is I would have said zero."

Hicks said Taft refrained from laying off employees or engaging in wider pay cuts. It instead saved money by reducing marketing, nixing retreats and travel, and eliminating its budgeting for meals and entertainment.

"We thought that the positive morale effects of not doing all those cuts would pay us better productivity because people weren't going to be frightened, and they weren't going to be engaged in all the negative talk, and it worked out that way," Hicks said. "We got a very cohesive happy workforce."

A growing list of major law firms has restored salary cuts to pre-pandemic levels in recent months. However, Taft and Akerman join a smaller group that is going a step further and giving back withheld pay to attorneys and professional staff. Other firms have also announced plans to dole out special fall bonuses for associates.

According to Hicks, Taft has seen some of its work decline due to the pandemic, but the firm has also had a substantial amount of loan and company restructuring, and coronavirus advisory work. Hicks said the firm's litigation work has continued at a roughly normal pace.

Hicks said Taft, which has 610 attorneys on staff and 1,150 employees overall, will not have to make any other pay cuts this year, but the firm is already being conservative in planning for 2021.

--Additional reporting by Justin Wise. Editing by Haylee Pearl.

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