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Wake Up Call: Kirkland Making ‘Stealth’ Layoffs, Report Says

Oct. 27, 2020, 12:43 PM

In today’s column, an immigration law firm that does work for Google said a data breach that hit the firm exposed personal data of current and former Google employees; energy company Exelon, which recently admitted to bribery as part of a federal settlement, hired a new top lawyer; student debt has a big impact on young lawyers’ mental health, an ABA survey shows.

  • Leading off, legal blog Above the Law said it’s received several anonymous reports that Kirkland & Ellis, the world’s biggest law firm by revenue, has made dozens of “stealth” layoffs of staff, including about 50 in Chicago, an unspecified number in Houston, and staff in other offices. In stealth layoffs, firms blame job cuts on performance and productivity reasons rather than admitting they were for economic reasons. Says one anonymous commenter, “I’m sure I will not be the only person to receive a phone call and I’m sure they’ll be making cuts throughout the week.” (Above the Law)
  • As the Covid-19 pandemic hit law firms’ business earlier this year and forced them to shift to remote work, Sullivan & Cromwell, Fox Rothschild, and Goodwin Procter were among firms reported to have made stealth layoffs. (BLAW)
  • Big Law firms that haven’t yet followed the Davis Polk example to offer special Covid-appreciation bonuses this fall probably aren’t going to, but associates at those firms will likely get the extra money when those firms hand out their regular year-end bonuses, ATL said. It says that seems to be what Gibson Dunn plans to do. (Above the Law)
  • Two thirds of the U.K.’s biggest law firms have reduced their partnership promotions this year, according to a report. ( International)
  • As law firms prioritized cash flow early in the Covid-19 pandemic, a majority of financial officers were willing to offer discounts to make sure clients paid their bills, according to a survey report by a Florida invoice funding company. (American Lawyer)
  • With the surging pandemic and the upcoming presidential election causing uncertainty, some of the country’s biggest law firms are helping companies get ready for possible changes in workplace laws and regulations. (BLAW)

Lawyers, Law Firms

  • The Senate confirmed President Trump’s third nominee to the U.S. Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)
  • Two famous litigators recently discussed how the 2020 presidential election could unfold: David Boies, co-founder of Boies Schiller Flexner, and Gibson Dunn’s Ted Olson. They faced off in Bush v. Gore, the Supreme Court case that decided the 2000 presidential election. (American Lawyer)
  • The Justice Department’s No. 2 antitrust official, Barry Nigro, left the DOJ after three years to rejoin his old law firm, Fried, Frank, Harris, Shriver & Jacobson, in Washington. The firm said he’ll lead its global antitrust practice. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)
  • Former top Trump Justice Department official Ethan Davis, who clerked for Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch for the 2017-18 term, is rejoining King & Spalding as a partner in San Francisco, the firm said. (BLAW)
  • A former in-house lawyer at Goldman Sachs Group Inc. is accusing the company’s general counsel and head of litigation of covering up sexual harassment at Goldman. (Bloomberg News via BLAW)
  • Los Angeles-based Buchalter launched a new industry group exclusively focused on the agribusiness industry. (Buchalter)

Laterals, Moves

  • Latham & Watkins reached into Proskauer’s nearly 50-lawyer sports and entertainment group to get partner Frank Saviano in New York. (BLAW)
  • Baker McKenzie named Paris-based M&A and private equity partner Alyssa Auberger, to be its first chief sustainability officer. As the firm’s global chair for goods and retail industry since 2016, Auberger has worked to raise the industry’s awareness of environmental, social and governance risks and opportunities. She now leads the firm’s global sustainability strategy. (
  • Morrison & Foerster said cross-border M&A lawyer Jeremy White joined its Tokyo office as a corporate partner. According to his LinkedIn, White arrives from Baker McKenzie, where he was a partner, and earlier spent close to 14 years at Allen & Overy. (
  • Distributed firm FisherBroyles hired former Jenner & Block partner Seth Travis as a financial services and litigation partner Chicago. He was most recently general counsel and chief administrative officer at a start-up quantitative proprietary trading firm. (
  • Mintz grabbed longtime White & Case litigation partner Doug Baumstein as a member in New York. (Mintz) Mintz also said Panera, LLC in-house leader Geri Haight is returning to the firm as a member in its employment, labor and benefits practice. According to her LinkedIn, Haight earlier in her career spent 14 years at Mintz, including as a partner in its intellectual property and litigation sections. (Mintz)
  • Cozen O’Connor brought on veteran intellectual property lawyers Jeffrey T. Gendzwill and Keith D. Fredlake as members in Washington. They arrive from Kilpatrick Townsend, where they were both partners. (
  • Eisner got veteran Seyfarth Shaw litigator Steven Paradise as a partner in New York. He earlier spent close to 14 years at Vinson & Elkins, where he was partner and co-head of the securities litigation and enforcement group. Eisner also added associates from Dentons, Goodwin Procter, and O’Melveny & Myers. (
  • Saul Ewing Arnstein & Lehr hired experienced bankruptcy attorney Candice Kline as a partner in Chicago. According to her LinkedIn, Kline spent close to nine years as a litigator and bankruptcy attorney at Sidley Austin and arrives most recently from Carpenter Lipps & Leland, where she was a partner. (
  • Alternative dispute resolution services provider JAMS said former Texas district Judge Cara C. Wood joined its panel in Houston; JAMS also said former Big Law attorney Laura Abrahamson, most recently SVP, deputy general counsel, and litigation head at engineering multinational AECOM, joined its panel in Los Angeles. (
  • Cahill hired a leveraged finance partner from Allen & Overy in London. (Global Legal Post)


  • Chicago-based energy company Exelon Corp., whose Commonwealth Edison unit recently admitted to bribery to settle a federal investigation, hired Jenner & Block white collar and investigations partner Gayle Littleton, a former federal prosecutor, as its new general counsel. The company’s former GC, Thomas O’Neill reportedly left to join a law firm. (Crain’s Chicago Business)
  • Canadian pension giant Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec said telecom industry in-house veteran Michel Lalande will join as its new executive vice president of legal affairs and secretariat on Jan. 1. He’s currently chief legal officer and corporate secretary at BCE Inc. and Bell Canada. (BLAW)


  • Immigration law firm Fragomen, Del Rey, Bernsen & Loewy said a data breach at the firm exposed current and former Google employees’ personal information. (

Legal Education

  • Student debt has a big impact on young lawyers’ mental health, an American Bar Association survey report shows. (
  • California’s Supreme Court Monday approved the charter for a new committee that will consider the future of the state’s bar exam. (The Recorder)

To contact the correspondent on this story: Rick Mitchell in Paris at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Rebekah Mintzer at; Darren Bowman at