Cadwalader Drops 35 Attorneys, Citing Market 'Volatility'

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One of the nation's most profitable and prestigious law firms, Cadwalader, Wickersham & Taft, is laying off 35 lawyers as the capital-market downturn weighs on its business.

The layoff involves about 5 percent of the New York-based firm's 720 attorneys.

"Cadwalader, with its large presence in structured finance and corporate mergers, was widely expected to be among the firms feeling the pinch" from recent sharp declines in mortgage-backed bond issuance and leveraged buyouts, the New York Times' DealBook says.

A statement from Cadwalader, quoted in several publications Thursday, said that "unexpected and persistent volatility... is affecting the capital markets, many of our clients, and certain practices" within the firm. As a result, it said, "Targeted personnel reductions will affect 35 lawyers in our U.S. offices." Cadwalader also said it's diversifying its practice and undertaking "strategic redeployment of certain persons," presumably into practice areas that haven't suffered from the credit-market turmoil.

Cadwalader's profit per partner, $2.9 million in 2006, ranks fourth among the largest 100 U.S. law firms, according to American Lawyer data.

Other prominent law firms laid off associates and cut down on recruitment late in 2007, amid slowing business from Wall Street. In November, Bloomberg reported that Clifford Chance, the world's highest-grossing law firm, dismissed six senior associates who worked on mortgage-backed securities. Other firms in New York and Washington reportedly moved attorneys from capital markets to other practices.