First it cut partners and now it's cutting working hours.  Ashurst has invited staff to take up to fifteen days unpaid leave or work a four day week.

A spokeswoman for the firm said "in common with many other law firms, we have offered staff the option of taking sabbaticals or working shorter hours". However, RollOnFriday hasn't heard of any other major City firm doing this. Then again Ashurst is also one of the few outfits not to have made any associates redundant, so if this can help it keep all its staff then that can only be a good thing.

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The firm was keen to stress that the scheme was both voluntary and discretionary - just because a lawyer wants to spend three weeks travelling around South America doesn't necessarily mean they will be allowed to. Each request will be considered on a case by case basis and will depend on the individual's situation.

The spokeswoman declined to comment on whether this meant redundancies could be avoided - but it's certainly a more hopeful outlook than at DLA Piper.

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