It’s hardly news that a US or UK law firm lays off lawyers and staff. Hogan & Hartson’s buyout of selected staff my eye.

Hogan & Hartson offers buyouts to 240 staffers (National Law Journal, 10 Feb 2009) reports that the firm is offering buyouts to 240 legal secretaries and word processors. Managing partner J. Warren Gorrell “said that the buyout offer is not a sign of financial problems for the firm, nor is it an omen of future layoffs. Rather, the buyouts are a byproduct of overcapacity in the secretarial ranks and improving technology.” That said, he does acknowledge the downturn is a factor.

In The Crisis Goes to Waste as BigLaw Muddles Through I point out that across the board staff cuts make no sense. Hogan’s selective cut makes more sense.

I wonder, however, if the firm will re-allocate secretaries and word processors so that lawyers receive the right level of support. If a firm has to cut – and many do – it should take that opportunity also to re-think how it delivers support.

I fear that BigLaw is following in the path of the Detroit Big 3 car makers. Adjust here and there but no plan or vision to change fundamentals. If firms have plans around how lay-offs will lead to a better business model for the future, they are not sharing (or the press is not reporting).