Watson Farley Williams is cutting legal PA roles in its London office. 

A WFW spokesman confirmed to RollOnFriday that the firm had commenced a redundancy consultation with affected staff. He said there was a "diminished requirement" for PA services arising from a "switch to remote working due to the COVID pandemic" and the firm's "expectation that agile working will continue in the future."   

"This was not an easy decision to make," said the spokesman, adding "we are working closely with the affected individuals to provide support as this is obviously a challenging and emotional time for them.”  

A source told RollOnFriday that 13 Legal PAs were at risk of losing their jobs, which equates to "almost half of the team". WFW's spokesman did not confirm numbers, saying that the firm needed to "conduct a fair process."


partner

Derek was going to be fine, absolutely fine, without his PA.


Reed Smith and Dorsey & Whitney confirmed last month that they would be making job cuts, also blaming COVID-19.

To top off a bad week for PAs at WFW, an insider revealed that an office manager sent out a bungled email to PAs with personal email addresses of the furloughed PAs. "Nice to know data protection is important in the firm," said the source. 

“We acknowledge an error was made in the communication in question and we are in touch with those concerned,” said WFW's spokesman.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

WFW Observer 10 July 20 12:50

Would save a lot more money if they got rid of the partners who bring in next to no business...

PAs to blame? 10 July 20 13:21

Difficult to see the cause and effect here.

Just because people are working at home, how does it reduce PA work? Increase in dictation, mail, meeting arranging/links, getting documents shredded and various other things should counteract the decrease in physical support. 

Need further info.

anon 10 July 20 15:20

Because @13:21 no doubt the associates have realised they can run their own blacklines in less time it takes to ask a PA to do it for them and they are all doing their own word processing because none of them want to print out documents in their own homes to mark-up...  Plus no one is travelling or incurring expenses so that's another job gone.  I'd guess the PAs are busy doing bills and not much else and once the work dries up...  

Anon 10 July 20 15:56

@Anon 1520......or the volume of fee earning work requiring PA support is anticipated to be low for the rest of the financial year......

Anon 10 July 20 16:32

Very unfortunate for the PAs affected. Hope the redundancy package is OK. Not really a surprise though when so many were furloughed.

clearly a worrying situation. Hopefully there’s no redundancies among the fee-earners because that’s really a clear indication of work drying up.

As for the data breach, that’s no surprise with wfw as it has form for piss poor handling of data. 

 

Anonymous 10 July 20 16:53

If partners understood how and when to apppy tracked changes, the demand for PAs would fall through the floor.

I worked for an elderly partner who drew up the following process for handling document amendments:

1) The document should be sent to the PA.

2) The PA should print the document and insert it into the partner's in-tray.

3) The partner should handwrite any amendments and hand it back to the PA.

4) The PA should convert the handwritten amendments into tracked changes.

5) The PA should reprint the document and insert it into the partner's in-tray for approval.

6) Repeat steps 2, 3, 4, and 5 until the partner is happy.

7) I'd finally get the fuck*ng document back.

Steps 1 to 6 could have been avoided entirely with tracked changes.

Unsurprisingly, the PAs - who had a vested interest in keeping things distinctly 1970s - didn't like using tracked changes either. 

Anonymous 10 July 20 19:10

Does WFW still have a document production department?  What will happen to them?  Surely not much work to go round if the analyses above about amending docs is correct.

Anonymous 10 July 20 20:41

It's 2020. Unless you're the CEO, you don't need a PA. The next generation of partners won't need/use them.

Anon 10 July 20 20:55

This is typical of WFW to use a pandemic as an excuse to cover up the removal of long-serving older PAs, something they have wanted to do for a while.  They went through a phase doing the same to older partners/consultants until they were successfully sued by a real estate partner and some senior assistants.  They don't call Appold Street the Bermuda Triangle for nothing … people just mysteriously disappear.

Anonymous 10 July 20 21:33

Settled it: https://www.rollonfriday.com/news-content/wfw-settles-long-tooth-age-discrimination-claim

 

Anonymous 11 July 20 08:47

One thing about PAs / Document Production is the effect on fees.  If an associate is running a blackline on a document is that time recorded?  What if it's an awkward one that ends up taking 15 minutes?  Do you charge the client for that?  If your fees are £400 an hour are you really going to charge £100 for doing a blackline?

That's what the Document Production departments are for (and one of the things the PAs are for).

Anon 11 July 20 10:33

@Anon 20:41. I’m a PA and I do a whole lot more than paper shuffling and amending documents! I draft my own letters and documents ensure the ‘next steps’ are prepared in readiness and offer complete hands-on support to my FEs....I take a large chunk of “their” work off their hands. I understand this may not be the case for all PAs - but many of us are a valuable source of support and our jobs ARE valid. 

Anon 11 July 20 11:05

If WFW really want to save money, they should closely scrutinise the Partners and senior non-fee earning management who are very highly remunerated but whose contribution to the firm is questionable to say the least.

I hope the affected PAs get a good redundancy package.

Anon 11 July 20 11:31

I bet they are offering peanuts to get rid of them. Maybe all the older PAs should get together and bring a claim for unfair dismissal on the grounds of age discrimination.

Ex wfwer 11 July 20 13:14

@anon 1632 - haha redundancy will be as mean as they can get away with. Limited respect for value of non-lawyers at WFW. Nice firm to train at though. 

WFW observer 11 July 20 13:15

If they are switching to agile working why do they need to keep Appold Street going? Surely they can save more by moving to smaller premises. That would make the Chuckle Brothers even happier; they do like counting their money and keeping it just for the EPs.

Anon 11 July 20 15:52

@Anonymous 11 July 20 08:47

And billing as well ... but perhaps that’s the crux of the issue; no bills are going out because no work is being done.

if it is a drop in work (rather than the lame explanation of the increase in agile working) then it’s very very worrying because it’s only been four months of lockdown and law firms should have plenty tucked away for rainy days. If WFW has no contingency and has resorted to firing a dozen PAs to stay afloat then things must be pretty dire. 
 

hopefully those affected will find other jobs soon.
 

Jim Royle 11 July 20 16:09

“agile working” my arse.

This will be the start of a steady stream of firings. Wait until the fee earners start getting canned; can’t say that agile working is the reason then. 

Anon PA 11 July 20 16:52

There are firms that will take advantage of the present downturn to rid themselves of “dead wood” - similar to what happened during the last recession, and its understandable.  PAs have to evolve and adapt on our own and I appreciate that many have still not figured this out. This is still really crappy news though.

Anon PA 11 July 20 16:52

There are firms that will take advantage of the present downturn to rid themselves of “dead wood” - similar to what happened during the last recession, and its understandable.  PAs have to evolve and adapt on our own and I appreciate that many have still not figured this out. This is still really crappy news though.

@13.15 11 July 20 18:11

@13.15

Of course EPs keep the money to themselves. The clue is in the word "equity". Had you put goodness knows how much into a business, then I'm quite sure that you'd want to see a handsome return. 

Some of you are clearly under the misapprehension that law firms are charities. They're not. If your role is redundant then leave/take the cash and re-train. There is no longer any loyalty in either direction. Embrace this new reality and move on.

Anon 11 July 20 22:42

@1315 above - don’t forget there are certain EPs who are clearly not contributing financially (not even covering the amount they take out of the business) however they are protected.

Anon 12 July 20 08:03

@ 18:11.

So why pretend "we are all in this together" when it is blatantly obvious we are not.

WFW are definitely not charitable.

Perhaps they will pay the goverment back all the money claimed under the job retention scheme when it has been made quite clear they had no intention of retaining half of their PA team.  Don't be surprised when other support staff get the boot as well.

With regards to loyalty, lots of good fee earners have already jumped ship and followed the projects team to Orricks as they know what's best for them.

 

Anon 13 July 20 09:23

Somebody needs to take a close look at those furloughed and then those canned. The firm should be made to pay back the cash taken from the government. 

Anon 14 July 20 20:45

I was PA in London from 90s up to 2019. The job changed completely due to technology. Unless you worked for an old style partner you never did any dictation. All the young trainees and associates did their own docs. In the end I was bored. Basically you did billing and set up meetings. There are a lot of PAs who do nothing. I now work local and it’s a completely different ball game client interaction and more like a legal assistant using my brain again and actually learning about law. I miss money obviously but that’s it.

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