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Foley & Lardner downsizes

Wisconsin’s largest law firm, Foley & Lardner, has laid off 39 attorneys from its 21 offices around the world, including associates in its Milwaukee and Madison offices.

Foley, which employs approximately 1,000 attorneys, had largely avoided the cuts endured by other large firms during the recession, but Chairman Ralf R. Boer indicated through spokespeople at Mueller Communications Inc. that the reductions were necessary to ensure long-term success.

“Part of this was driven by a much broader effort to bring costs in line with clients’ expectations that legal services be more cost effective,” said H. Carl Mueller, president of Mueller Communications.

Mueller declined to reveal how many attorneys at Foley’s headquarters in Milwaukee or its branch in Madison were let go. Foley employs more than 300 attorneys in Wisconsin and is the largest law firm in the state.

He did say that no individual office or practice area absorbed the bulk of the reductions and the net impact on any particular office was minimal.

“Wisconsin was no different than the rest of Foley’s offices around the world,” he said.

Mueller said that the layoffs will put the firm in a position to move forward into the next year.

As the economy continues to lag, law firms have struggled to stabilize their bottom lines, noted Milwaukee Bar Association executive director James Temmer.

Several firms in the state have delayed incoming associate start dates, suspended future summer programs or trimmed the number of new hires.

“Some attorneys leave or move and firms are not replacing them,” Temmer said.

In August, Foley was among several firms that announced they would delay incoming associate start dates from September until February 2010.

Foley is paying its 67 deferred associates a $10,000 stipend, according to Nancy J. Sennett, managing partner of the Milwaukee office.

Unlike other firms, Sennett said that Foley is not shortening its summer associate program. Seventy-seven students are enrolled this year.

Foley also has added several attorneys this year, including six Intellectual Property lawyers since May.

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