10 March 2009

Allen & Overy announced yesterday that it would be making some 9% of its staff redundant. Pay will also be frozen across the board.

In an email to staff the managing and senior partners announced that 47 partners will be leaving the firm by the end of April, with another 35 moved down the equity - in total, 16% of the firm's partnership. Some 200 fee earners and 200 support staff will be made redundant worldwide, around half of them from the firm's London office. The firm is dumping its private client department, and it also confirmed that it is freezing pay for all staff for the duration of 2009.

OK, it may be a smaller proportion of staff facing the chop than at some other firms. But bearing in mind that A&O has just posted its best results ever - turnover at the half year mark was up a whopping 11% last November - it has come as a huge shock within the firm.

     Allen and Overy explodes yesterday

Linklaters and Clifford Chance have both made lawyer redundant already and Freshfields has frozen salaries - but this is the first time a Magic Circle firm has done both. And it comes from an outfit that took pride in the fact that it didn't make any redundancies in the last recession, and has led the market for associate pay.

Managing partner Wim Dejonghe pointed out that a disproportionate number of A&O's partners were taking the pain - although of course partners leave at a faster rate than anyone else through normal retirement. He told RollOnFriday that the past had indeed been very good and this would be reflected in this year's bonus. But he said that the future "looks quite scary", and the firm had to take these measures to prevent even deeper cuts at a later date

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