Duane Morris laid off 18% of its marketing and business development staff yesterday.  Ed Schecter, the head of marketing, apparently said cost-cutting was "secondary" and the real intent was to build a more experienced, leaner team.  Of course, this is reported the day after Citibank’s Dan DiPietro is quoted as saying the profits of Amlaw 100 firms (which includes Duane Morris) will be down 15% this year, even with all the cost-cutting and staff reductions being widely reported.

Here’s my question:  why do firms (and businesses in general) seem to worry about being lean only when the economy is bad?  If being lean is a good thing, why not aspire to it when times are good?

These questions are obviously rhetorical.  Here’s my point:  tell the truth.  There are many reasons to do so.  Among them are that you owe it to your colleagues.  They presumably did good work for the firm or they wouldn’t be there.  It’s bad enough to release them into a terrible job environment, but to do so with the innuendo that they weren’t good enough is just wrong.  But that type of institutional loyalty is collateral to the real reason.  All over the legal world today, people are making fun of Duane Morris simply because they didn’t have the fortitude to acknowledge that which everyone believes to be true–they let some people go in order to reduce expenses.  And I promise you that the memory of the lie is much worse than any feeling created by acknowledging that tough times bring tough decisions.

ADDENDUM:  Today brings a report that Duane Morris laid off an additional 15 staffers.  The point of this post was not to pick on Duane Morris, but the richness of this development can’t be ignored.  The spokesman who said the economy was secondary to the layoff of people in the marketing department  has had his crebility as a firm spokesman damaged even more by this development.