Economy forces major law firm to cut attorneys


One of the city's biggest law firms said yesterday that it is cutting almost 10 percent of its attorneys, including seven associates who have been laid off and seven partners who have agreed to leave the firm.

Frank, Bernstein, Conaway & Goldman will also close its Towson office, said Shale D. Stiller, the firm's managing partner. He blamed the cuts on the soft economy, which he said has reduced the firm's business.

The 112-year-old law firm will have about 130 lawyers working in Baltimore, Washington, Bethesda, Columbia and Frederick, Mr. Stiller said. He said the two lawyers in the Towson office are staying with the firm but will work in Baltimore.

Frank, Bernstein has been the subject of speculation about its future, and it confirmed this month that it held merger talks with Piper & Marbury, a larger Baltimore firm. Piper said the talks were very preliminary and were initiated by Frank, Bernstein.

But Mr. Stiller said yesterday that his firm is not now involved in "any talks, active or inactive."

"Our ballgame is to continue as a strong, independent firm," Mr. Stiller said. He also said Frank, Bernstein will be very profitable after the expense cuts take effect.

Mr. Stiller refused to name the partners who will leave the firm. He said that they don't come from any one area of the firm's practice, that none of the firm's departments will close as part of the cost-cutting program and that no department is losing more than two lawyers.

"The type of legal services our firm increasingly is called on to provide are in areas outside our traditional practice base," Mr. Stiller said. "As our practice changes, we must make difficult decisions that reflect reduced demand for some traditional services."

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