We’ve begun to see a disturbing trend in professional services as organizations respond to the economic impact of the coronavirus. Faced with an uncertain future and looking to cut costs wherever possible, some firms are trimming their marketing departments as a way to reduce expenses.
We are aware of at least one Am Law 200 firm that has frozen business development spending, including certain reimbursements for partners. Notably, some firms are going as far as to lay off or furlough their marketing teams, including senior officers.
This is a curious move. Billion-dollar entities should be able to afford to keep senior marketing officers on the payroll for a few months. Moreover, C-level executives have expertise and institutional knowledge that should make them valuable in a crisis and hard to replace.
Perhaps certain law firm managing partners are showing just how little they value their most senior administrative managers. Large law firms have historically favored paying lawyers and resisted paying top dollar to senior administrative managers. In a crisis, firms might be reverting back to this tendency, and the marketing department is bearing the brunt of administrative cost-cutting efforts. As hiring needs decline, it is possible that HR departments will be next to see cutbacks.
In many ways, it’s harder to lose the head of marketing (which is happening now) than to fire your 29th-most productive partner. That is why all of these reductions in law firm administrative management should serve as a warning to underperforming attorneys. Given what large firms have demonstrated recently, no one should be shocked when firms go after senior lawyers, especially high-earning service partners in disfavored practice areas.