"I'll be juuust fine without a sole secretary to myself"
Dentons and Reed Smith are the latest firms to make redundancies due to the pandemic.
Dentons has cut 85 roles in its UK, Ireland and Middle East offices. 83 of the staff accepted voluntary redundancy, while two employees were handed compulsory redundancy.
Some of the cuts were due to the firm restructuring its secretarial and business services roles. The firm also cited a shift to homeworking, including the creation of a number of virtual roles, which put office-based roles at risk. The firm said in a statement that it is now "consulting around agile working in all its UK offices, including London." Last year the firm closed its Aberdeen and Watford offices, as part of a remote working review.
"Our people have told us they want to use offices differently now, focusing on connecting with colleagues and clients," said Lisa Sewell, Managing Director for the UK, Ireland and Middle East. "They have also valued the extra time in their days from not commuting which has enabled them to do the school run, take more time on their own wellbeing or enjoy time with friends and family. We are looking to change the way our offices are set up to create the kind of flexible working environment they are looking for."
"Those who are leaving us do so with our sincere thanks and gratitude for the valuable contributions they have made to our firm," Sewell added.
Reed Smith has kicked off a voluntary redundancy programme for its UK and US secretaries. The firm said that it had "embarked on a firmwide project to transform and modernize its business" (i.e. make cuts) due to changes in working practices "as the firm emerges from more than a year of remote working".
The cuts are being made under an initiative called 'Connectivity', although 'No Connectivity' would be more apt for those leaving the firm.
Reed Smith is replacing the traditional secretarial role with a new 'Executive Assistant' position. "EAs will essentially function as 'air-traffic controllers' with greater leadership and responsibility for facilitating service for the lawyers," said the firm, but stopped short of saying they'd be handed glowing wands to taxi lawyers up to the gate. Instead, it confirmed that EAs would be working "with a larger number of lawyers" but there would "continue to be one point of contact for lawyers."
Reed Smith said that it was offering voluntary redundancy to all UK and US secretaries, as it recognised some "may lack interest in the EA role". Those secretaries who stay at the firm will take up the new EA position.
“We will continue to seek ways to transform and realign our business, always with client service as our motivating force,” said Tamara Box, Reed Smith’s EMEA managing partner. “Change is now the norm, but change also presents the firm with huge opportunities for evolution in keeping with our core values and our culture.”
A spokesman for the firm said that the firm couldn't provide any details on the numbers of secretarial roles affected at this stage, as the process is ongoing.
The firms are not alone in restructuring and trimming during the pandemic. 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, in April CC axed dozens of support staff, and in May Baker McKenzie jettisoned senior support staff.
If your firm is making cuts, let RollOnFriday know.
Both firms have made the mistake of omitting the word "stakeholders" from their PR spin statements. Example, "all stakeholders were consulted on these transitions."
Meaningless word salad. Plus ca change...