clifford chance redudancies

"We made it through the pandemic, we...hang on, this isn't Canary Wharf."

Clifford Chance is due to make up to 73 staff redundant after reassessing how its business will function following the pandemic.

Between 44 and 73 staff will be affected, said the firm, all of them in business services teams hard-hit by the working-from-home culture which many firms are seeking to embed. 

Secretaries, document production staff and those in the mail room will be offered voluntary redundancy packages in a "hybrid voluntary/compulsory redundancy approach", said the firm. It said it hoped take-up of the packages in offer would reduce "the number of compulsory redundancies needed".

Clifford Chance teams are by no means the only ones getting hammered. Job culls are rolling through the legal sector, with business services teams and particularly secretaries taking the brunt. Covid has accelerated existing IT trends which were threatening support roles, and forced additional changes to working practices which have seen lawyers getting to grips with sending their own post, scanning the rest, and generally using fewer in-office resources as they split their time with homeworking.

In January, Norton Rose Fulbright set about making 132 redundancies, 111 of which were non-fee-earners. RollOnFriday revealed in October that Fieldfisher was cutting secretaries, and in November that CMS and Clyde & Co were making cuts, along with Gately and Squire Patton Boggs. In March, Linklaters offered all 225 of its secretaries voluntary redundancy and, unlike CC, said it had no plans to make any compulsory redundancies. 

Clifford Chance managed to avoid furloughing staff or cutting staff pay or jobs during the pandemic. But now, said Regional Managing Partner Michael Bates, "Following a thorough review of our UK operations looking at the impact of Covid and accelerating technological change, we have identified some areas where we need to make changes". 

"Sadly, these proposals will also result in the departure of some of our valued colleagues. This is never an easy decision, and not one that we have taken lightly". 

"We have entered into a consultation with the affected teams, and will also be offering them a voluntary redundancy scheme. Throughout, we will seek to reach our final decisions in a fair and inclusive way that respects our people and reflects our culture. And we will do all that we can to support all of our colleagues as we move through the process".

If your firm is wielding the axe, whether inclusively or not, write in.

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 23 April 21 09:53

The simple fact is that the days of a ‘head of paperclips’ and other non-entity positions are long gone.

Bloated support departments are not needed.  

Their plight hasn’t been helped by technology or attitudes.  The ‘can’t be arsed to provide support’ witnessed by many of us so often has not helped the support departments one jot.



Anonymous 23 April 21 10:21

At least they're being upfront and open about making employees redundant unlike those firms (one listed firm in particular comes to mind) that operate by ruthlessly culling their staff under the radar.

Law 23 April 21 10:31

Most firms have way too many staff members. It’s a case of cutting out the underperforming ones and creating a robust strong team made up of fewer people. We still need support staff, just way less of them. Half the staff at my firm do very little as there isn’t enough work to keep everyone busy. 

Me, Myself, and I 23 April 21 10:47

Of cause all about covid and nothing to do with new offices in Dublin and outsourcing work into the EU.

Anonymous 23 April 21 12:12

It's fine cutting them when  they're not busy.

Just wait until lots of deals are happening at the same time and you haven't got enough staff.

Fat cat 23 April 21 12:57

Few earners charging £400 p/h photocopying and binding stuff. I bet the client would be impressed 😂 

Anonymous 23 April 21 13:27

It's all about Brexit you see.

Because we are out of the EU nobody needs a secretary anymore. So we're sacking them all and outsourcing the work we don't actually need to Dublin. There they do the job which doesn't exist anymore at the same wage but paid in euros, it's progressive and shows solidarity. The corporate team are retraining to become Swiss fishermen.

Just like Peter Mandleson said would happen.

Rob 23 April 21 14:58

This change has been coming for a long time. The secretaries and most support staff have been doing very little for too long. I called this years ago before Covid. Those jobs are becoming redundant due to technological advances in how we practice law. My advice to people in those jobs is to start looking to skill up in different areas now (better late than never). Be proactive cause your jobs are in decline. Hard to hear, but true. Start acting now!! 

Anonymous 23 April 21 14:58

I bet it was the mail room staff, the photocopy and scanning teams who were in the office throughout the lockdowns to ensure the firm kept on running. Bearing in mind that most fee earners would do anything rather than sully their hands with ugh manual work like typing an email, it will be interesting to see how many of these roles will actually be replaced by outsourcing them to a low cost centre. 

Anonymous 23 April 21 17:43

Hard to hear but the reality is that this has been coming. 20 years ago, a partner would typically do manuscript comments and give to his or her secretary to type up. Most fee earners now do their own word processing, a lot of them do their own printing. The business need is simply no longer there. As per Rob's comment at 14:58, re-skill now.

Anonymous 23 April 21 17:47

They take my PA and I walk. She's the only thing that stops my clients realising how disorganised I am.

Anonymous 24 April 21 08:23

There's certain times of the year when not much is happening and other times when it's all hands to the pumps.

From September to Xmas they'll be a load of firms looking for experienced, quality temporary staff and there won't be enough to go around.  Once they factor in agency fees on top of salaries and the cost of recruitment (adverts, interviews etc) they'll realise it was a false economy.

This happens every few years.  We're re-organising the PAs.  We're moving the document production dept out of their office and distributing them among the practice groups.  We're outsourcing to India.  Then, a few years later they revert,  quietly start recruiting to replace lost staff or centralise document production or drop the outsourcing provider.

And then 3-5 years later they do it all again.

Junior Associate 24 April 21 10:46

As a junior associate I rarely get a response when sending jobs to the secretarial pool so I either ask a paralegal to do the work or do it myself.

Anonymous 24 April 21 21:19

I rarely get a response when sending jobs to the secretarial pool

Do you even work in a law firm?  If so it must be a total shitshop.

What is a secretarial pool?  I've never worked anywhere with such a thing.  In the places that I've worked each seccy has a number of lawyers they support.  And then there's a document production department to assist on bigger and more complex jobs and fixing corrupt documents and so on.

Perhaps you live in the 1950s with the typing pool.

Anywhere I've worked there would be hell to pay if a support staff ignored a reasonable request from a fee earner.  Odds are they'd at best be seeing HR and at worst be managed out in a week.

Fake Partner 25 April 21 02:11

The dictator that runs our firm in Boston is stuck in 1985. Yes, we need some support staff, we just don't need 56 of them. We could get by with 20. The firm flushes $1.8 million down the toilet every year on salaries for people who are doing hardly any work. A cull is long overdue, but will not happen with a Managing Partner who still prints out every e-mail on different colored paper. 

Anon 25 April 21 13:37

Any forward thinking firm should allow their staff the option of working from home, they can then reduce office space making huge savings. Those working from home don’t have the expense of travel and afford to not have an increase for an agreed number of years. Sickness days are reduced because you not cramming onto trains like packed sardines in a tin can. If firms want to save money do it in other ways, don’t cull those who have given their best years to them only to be forsaken because they want to fill their fat pockets even more. It’s disgraceful what these firms are doing. More should be done to protect people’s jobs! 

Anon 25 April 21 15:42

@Anonymous 24 April 21 21:19 - such a stupid comment 'I haven't had this experience therefore it cannot possibly be true'

Anon 25 April 21 15:47

I am looking for a new PA so hoping to nab an excellent candidate leaving a firm that was unable to use them/train them to assist with the tasks they need help with. 

Anonymous 26 April 21 11:36

Actually 13:37, cramming people together on trains reduces the number of sick days they take.

By forcing them into a concentrated germ-saturated environment you rapidly toughen their immune systems up. It's a form of immersion therapy that advanced economies in Europe have recognised for decades now (typically, we are far behind them).

If British employers really wanted to get the best out of their staff then they would increase the amount of cramming that they all had to endure. An efficient way of doing it would be to force everyone into a single meeting room at the start and end of every day; then to get them to jump up and down vigorously to encourage increased oscillation of surrounding air particles, a raised temperature, and elevated quantities of sweat (and with it atmospheric humidity). That way you'd swiftly ensure that everyone was exposed to everyone else's germs as swiftly as possible thereby achieving herd immunity in the shortest possible time. Sick days would be a thing of the past.

In Germany they do this regularly with whole factories of people (they have those in Germany, the best in the world, we closed all of ours here and no longer make a single thing in the entire country*) cramming into a single six person meeting room and jumping up and down together to the tune of Edelweiss for a full thirty minutes.

And do you see the Germans laying off any secretaries? 




*We import everything from Germany you see. But they print 'Made in China' on the packs to make us feel better about it.

buzzkill 26 April 21 12:54

I think it is disgraceful that a firm which has been performing well in lockdown, and has paid Covid bonuses, is making compulsory redundancies.

Most of these people will getting paid very modest salaries, nothing like what the lawyers get paid, and the firm will probably need to recruit more people when we get back to the office anyway.

What happened to social responsibility? 

What does this do with morale - who does CC think is responsible for ensuring that everyone can work from home effectively? Answer: the support staff.

Anonymous 26 April 21 13:47

Anon 25 April 21 15:42

@Anonymous 24 April 21 21:19 - such a stupid comment 'I haven't had this experience therefore it cannot possibly be true'

No mate.  It just means you work in a shitshop.  Suck it up.

Anonymous 26 April 21 17:36

@ Anon 25 April 21 15:42   As a junior associate I rarely get a response when sending jobs to the secretarial pool

Like the other one said, you must be working for a two bit ambulance chaser.  In a high street firm they wouldn't carry the dead weight.  In a decent size commercial firm the senior secretaries or document production supervisors wouldn't accept that.

AbsurdinessBrown 27 April 21 13:42

They're going to be in a spot of bother when it comes out that nobody is on Facebook or real estate websites all the time.

And who is going to gripe about "Secretaries Day" not being take seriously as they wander back, slowly, from a firm sponsored lunch?

They'll learn.  The fools.

Anon 28 April 21 01:49

Why no mention of WFW here? They were the first to furlough staff last year and the first to make compulsory redundancies last July. They are still at it now. Quietly getting rid of what support staff they have left and now outsourcing the DP department to Scotland! The London office manager must surely be next to go as there is no office left to manage. Still it's more money in the pockets of the Chuckle Brothers.

Anonymous 28 April 21 11:42

Do you even work in a law firm?  If so it must be a total shitshop.

What is a secretarial pool?  

Your comment is totally wrong, perhaps the word "pool" is the wrong word to use.  Lots of firms now have, what was perceived as "pools", and renamed them as Service Centre, Hubs, Support Hubs etc.  The work is emailed through a service portal email address and picked up by the support group.  Faceless service, cheap, as most employed are at junior level, entry level.  

Wish you were here 28 April 21 14:43

My firm Slater and Gordon has been well ahead of the curve on all matters mentioned above. We've  had limited support staff and significantly less office space for a number of years and it is working great!

Buster Gonad 29 April 21 13:23

Anyone craping on support staff here needs to take their head for a wobble. Without support staff, many law firms would not have got through the lockdowns as well as they did. Support staff make sure the shit housery performed by fee earners is good and proper.

Anonymous 30 April 21 00:47

Meanwhile, a start-up city firm since lockdown has taken on more admin support staff and rented an extra office when rent was low, without improving business or quality of service. Run by brexit and “non-racist” ukip voters. 

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