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Cooley Axes Corporate Associates as Tech Sector Feels Crunch

Nov. 9, 2022, 2:26 AM

Cooley LLP, the tech-focused law firm known for advising Silicon Valley’s biggest players, has laid off a group of corporate associates as demand for work slows.

A Cooley spokesperson confirmed that an unspecified number of associates have been let go.

“The firm concluded its annual mid-year associate performance review process this past summer,” the spokesperson said. “Any attorney separations that have occurred to-date are a result of that process.”

Three sources familiar with the situation described the cuts as “layoffs” not related to performance. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said many of those let go were junior associates in Northern California.

The century-old law firm headquartered in Palo Alto, California, is best known for advising emerging companies, including several that have become behemoths. The move comes amid reports of staff reductions and hiring freezes at major tech companies, including Cooley clients Twitter, Inc., Meta Platforms Inc.'s Facebook and Apple, Inc.

Cooley is among the major law firms that cashed in on a deals boom during the pandemic, reporting nearly $2 billion in gross revenue and more than $4 million in profits per equity partner last year, according to The American Lawyer.

Cooley also staked out an aggressive position in the recruiting war that accompanied the surge in work, scooping up partners and associates from competing firms at a brisk pace. That includes hiring in-demand corporate associates in places far from the firm’s offices with the promise of full-time remote work.

Slowing demand and recession fears now have law firms tightening their belts. Gunderson Dettmer, another tech-focused firm with Silicon Valley roots, recently delayed start dates for its newest crop of incoming associates.

Mergers and acquisitions deals were down nearly 29% in the first three quarters of this year compared with the same time last year. Initial public offerings—another lucrative practice area for law firms—plummeted a whopping 90% over the same time frame.

Twitter, whose new boss Elon Musk has criticized Cooley, laid off nearly half of its employees last week. Meta is expected to cut thousands of workers this week, according to the Wall Street Journal. Apple, meanwhile, is freezing hiring across many of its business units.

To contact the reporter on this story: Chris Opfer in New York at copfer@bloomberglaw.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Seth Stern at sstern@bloomberglaw.com