London Layoffs Back

by lawshucks on May 4, 2012

In 2009, UK firms were ahead of the curve in laying people off.  Could that trend be starting again?

Herbert Smith, #29 on the 2011 Global 100, is reportedly laying off up to 51 London lawyers and staff – three percent of that office’s headcount.  The firm has about 1100 total lawyers.

The corporate cuts [ed: 23 of the 51] equate to almost 10% of the London team. A further five fee-earner positions are at risk in real estate, with the remaining job cuts affecting professional support lawyers and personal assistants. The firm is also now expecting to offer jobs to a maximum of 75% of its NQs this autumn, down from retention rates of 80%-90% posted last year.

Herbert Smith’s only previous reported round of layoffs was 33 lawyers and 51 staff on April 20, 2009.

In the Herbies article, Legal Week reports other layoffs in London, some of which we’re still sorting out for reporting:

Clifford Chance also recently announced London job cuts, with up to 13 finance and capital markets associates at risk [ed: our coverage here], while Linklaters has made a number of back office job cuts in recent months. Allen & Overy and Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer have both stated they have no redundancy plans.

Meanwhile, the London branch of Mayer Brown plans to cut headcount by 20.  Mayer Brown has (had) more than 1,600 lawyers worldwide.

A spokesperson for Mayer Brown said in a statement: “We continue to look carefully at our business to ensure that we have as strong a platform as possible on which to build. We have made the difficult decision that a small reduction in headcount is necessary which may result in less than 20 people from the London office leaving the firm. This includes a small number of fee earners along with support staff. All those potentially impacted by this decision have been notified and will be provided with support and assistance at this time.”

Mayer Brown has had five previous rounds of layoffs reported:

That’s a grand total of 330: 146 lawyers and 184 staff (assuming “small number of fee earners” is five and the balance staff).

They’ve just cracked into the Top 10 List – bumping previous #10 Eversheds.

Legal Week udpated us on the big firms; The Lawyer does so for some smaller firms, which don’t qualify for the Layoff Tracker, but may be additional canaries in the coal mine:

A number of firms have announced redundancy programmes in the past weeks, including most recently Herbert Smith (30 April 2012), Shoosmiths (3 May 2012), Maclay Murray & Spens (4 May 2012) and Dundas & Wilson (2 April 2012).

Stateside, Baker & McKenzie’s layoffs in San Diego and Bingham’s layoff of staff are the most notable so far of 2012.

Again we ask, is this a trend or an aberration?

[Also, we're going to continue with the Heller precedent until we're convinced otherwise as far as the impending layoffs at Dewey & LeBoeuf goes.  We said then and say now that those are "complete failures of a firm, not selective layoffs."  We recognize that that can lead to anomalous results, like including Dewey's March layoffs.]

  • Catherine Gannon

    It looks like the cull may be over, the results posted this week by the biggest Uk firms suggest things are picking up now, good news.

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