Ed. note: The legal world is much bigger than New York, or Washington, or even the United States. Welcome to the inaugural installment of “Letter from London,” a weekly dispatch from the other side of the pond. Our U.K. correspondent, Isaac Smith, will expose ATL readers to the latest goings-on in the London legal world. You can reach Isaac by email, at email@example.com.
Firms in the U.S. often try to keep their layoffs nice and quiet, with instructions not to communicate with the media or the odd scare tactic… Cousins, you’re not alone.
A recent meeting between DLA Piper’s UK management team and employee reps over its stingy redundancy package got off to a bad start when London Managing Partner Catherine Usher pleaded for “ideas on how we can keep the information confidential” — words which were leaked, along with the rest of the minutes, to just about every legal news publication in London last week.
Some quick background: DLA, which launched its second redundancy consultation in January (with criteria including number of sick days taken), is paying out the statutory minimum to UK-based lawyers who get the chop. This equates to one week’s pay (capped at £350 a week) for each year’s service. By way of comparison, Linklaters is said to be offering three weeks’ pay (at the full rate, without any cap) for every year with the firm, plus three months’ notice. DLA’s US arm is also being considerably more generous.
More of the DLA minutes:
Meeting begins with Usher urging associates to stop leaking things to the press.
Employee rep points out link between firm’s less-than-generous redundancy package and press leaks.
Heated exchanges ensue.
Hapless HR manager tries to pacify the crowd, but her misguided recommendations that (a) associates go out for some morale-boosting team drinks and (b) the fired ones use an “an advice line” which provides “guidance about the impact of redundancy and what to do next” only make situation worse.
Anger boils over and Usher and HR Manager set upon by frenzied mob.
Ok, that last bit may not have happened.
Addition London news, after the jump.
In other news
More job cuts at the London offices of White & Case — with around 90 lawyers and support staff set to go — and Baker & McKenzie, where between 60 and 85 employees (20-30 of those lawyers) are to be, as the American legal press likes to put it, “eliminated”.
Imagine if losing your job did actually entail full elimination.
Just a thought.
I’d rather be frozen. That way, I could be de-thawed about ten years from now and walk the post-depression landscape untouched by the ravages of time, energetic, thrusting and ready to rake in bucket loads of cash.
This philosophy may explain why associates at Ashurst and Simmons & Simmons are not complaining too loudly about their pay freezes, announced last week following similar moves by “Magic Circle” firms Allen & Overy and Freshfields. Ashurst combined its freeze with the news that it would be slashing newly qualified lawyer salaries from 65,000 to 60,000 of our de-valued, basket case pounds — probably about the equivalent of a meal for two at Sizzler / Denny’s /Carl’s Jr or whatever high-calorie institution it is which you people eat at.
More compulsory trainee start date deferrals — including headline hogging Simmons & Simmons’ decision to bundle up deferring start dates with a sponsored MBA programme (the firm is covering the course fees and providing a £15,000 maintenance grant). Plus arguably the biggest story of the week: Norton Rose’s groundbreaking four-day-week initiative / bid to extend the weekend to three days. Yay! said many of the associates writing on the message boards of London legal magazine websites. “I’d take the four-day week and develop a lucrative sideline in busking on the fifth,” wrote one breathlessly on LegalWeek.com.
Others were more cynical: “…you have to wonder whether fee-earners will be theoretically working a 4-day week, but will end up working the same hours as they do now anyway.”
Oh yeah, one more thing: Clifford Chance has withdrawn the poached eggs on the menu of its canteen, leaving fried eggs as the only egg option, reports Roll on Friday. The UK legal gossip website quotes a disgruntled insider: “Who likes fried eggs anyway? No one.” It would be interesting to get your views on this.
Elsewhere on our green and pleasant island…
Manchester is home of “soccer” team Manchester United, anthemic rockers Oasis, ‘Coronation Street’ (a long running TV soap opera which will never make it big in the US due to its highly culturally specific plotlines) and law firm Halliwells. Last week Halliwells announced its fourth — yes fourth — round of redundancies; it previously having emerged that the firm is £19.4m in debt, with its Royal Bank of Scotland loan “unusually” — according to commentators — giving the bank security over its assets.
What have we learned?
Don’t expect to pay the legal minimum redundancy and not have your board minutes leaked.
Quote of the week
From said board minutes: “Everyone is very pissed off to see their mates dumped out with nothing.”
And with that quaintly British phrase floating in your newly awakened British consciousnesses, it’s goodbye from London. Until next week.
Isaac Smith is ATL’s London columnist. You can reach him by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.