(Reuters) - Layoffs are top of mind for many associates, as law firms announce cost-cutting measures in response to the coronavirus pandemic, according to the results of a survey from legal recruiting firm Major, Lindsey & Africa released on Thursday.
More than half of the 1,335 associates who responded to the survey listed job security as their top concern related to work and the pandemic. Nearly a quarter ranked cost-cutting measures such as furloughs and pay cuts as their top concerns, followed by mental health worries.
Almost 40% of associates said their workload has decreased since the onset of the pandemic. Associates in real estate, tax, and intellectual property practice groups were most likely to report a decrease in work. Nearly 40% of respondents said their workload has stayed the same, while more than 20% said it has increased, mostly those working on bankruptcy and healthcare matters.
Some associates have started taking on work outside their usual practice group to stay busy, said one of the report’s authors, MLA partner Michelle Fivel, in an interview with Reuters.
Many U.S. law firms began telling employees to work remotely in March, as states started shutting down large swaths of their economy in an effort to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Since then more than 50 large law firms have announced cost-cutting measures. Many firms, including Hogan Lovells, K&L Gates and Mayer Brown, have cut associate salaries by between 10% to 20% and some have pushed back the start date for incoming first year associates. A few firms, including Nixon Peabody and Bremer Whyte Brown & O’Meara, have laid off associates.
MLA and legal industry blog Above the Law conducted the survey from April 13 to 21. The vast majority of respondents are U.S. based associates with nearly one-third in Texas and almost 27% in New York. More than half are from firms with more than 500 attorneys, and most were in litigation practice groups.
Just under half said that they were “very satisfied” with their firms’ communications on cost-cutting measures and its financial health. Fivel said that more than anything, associates want transparency.