By Xiumei Dong, Law360 | April 30th, 2020
While many BigLaw firms are tightening their belts during the COVID-19 outbreak, several boutique firms are offering additional benefits to keep their teams together, even if that means firm leaders will take “a personal hit.”
In contrast to larger firms that have implemented salary cuts and furloughs, some boutiques are actually handing out bonuses to reward personnel for their hard work.
“We are very proud of the team that we built, and we wanted to make sure that we could keep that team, and not have to do any kind of cost-cutting layoff or furloughs or transitioning people to part-time work, or anything like that,” said William Delgado, a founding partner at DTO Law.
For some experts, the bonuses, continued hiring and other trend-bucking practices of smaller firms speaks to the increased maneuverability of steering a smaller ship.
Because the smaller firms are more “nimble,” it also allows them to make “just in time” changes in a time of economic uncertainty, said Valerie Fontaine, a partner at legal search firm SeltzerFontaine.
While some of the BigLaw firms are downsizing their workforce to mitigate the financial burden of the crisis, Delgado said his firm is seeing this as a perfect opportunity to scoop up some talented lawyers, gearing the firm up for the increasing legal work that’s expected to arise from the pandemic.
Mark said the firm won’t be laying off or cutting pay for any of its 16 employees, including 12 attorneys and four staff members.
Compared to the larger firms, Mark said the small boutiques are well-positioned to weather the financial impact of COVID-19 because their operation is “much leaner” and able to give more individualized attention to employees.
“This is not an interesting typical little dip in the economy, this is obviously far more significant than that, but I just don’t expect to see a significant drop off in work,” Mark said. “In fact, I expect to see a pretty significant increase in work, and I would be shocked if we don’t hire several more attorneys before the year is over.”