There has been a lot of bad news already this week. Now Xconomy has learned that the global law firm Heller Ehrman has laid off 139 workers in its Seattle office, effective November 28, according to Washington State’s Employment Security Department. This comes on the heels of the news that the company’s partners have voted to dissolve the 118-year-old firm, which is headquartered in San Francisco and known for its work in the tech and life sciences community.
I pinged Stephen Graham of Fenwick & West (an Xconomist) to get his take. “Heller was a fine firm, and it is sad to see it go,” he writes in an e-mail. “However, they have a lot of great lawyers and wonderful people, the vast majority of whom will go on to continue their careers at other firms. In Seattle, at the end of the day, after all the unfortunate and severe disruption, I think the net result will simply be the absence of the Heller name in the legal community. The players will be fine. Their clients will be fine.”
According to published media reports, 2007 was a difficult year financially for Heller. That had led to the departure of several dozen partners in the past year. And in the last few months, Heller had reportedly been in talks to merge with other law firms, including Baker & McKenzie and Mayer Brown, but no deal materialized.
Heller Ehrman is one of the largest law firms to close its doors recently. It employed 650 attorneys and professionals across 35 practices in 14 offices in the U.S., Europe, and Asia, according to its website. Its practices included antitrust and trade regulation, information technology, energy and cleantech, life sciences, and intellectual property litigation. Its client list included Washington Mutual and Lehman Brothers. Heller opened its Seattle office in 1983.
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