Ashurst has told its London and Middle East secretaries that up to 80% of them are at risk of redundancy. RollOnFriday broke the news on Monday and the consultation was launched on Tuesday.

Law firm secretarial positions have long been vulnerable to the relentless advance of AI, off shoring, near shoring, partners being forced to answer their own emails etc.. Pinsent Masons put all of its UK secretaries on notice of redundancy last autumn. BLM made 50 support staff redundant last summer. But 80%? There are around 100 secretaries in London and the Middle East, so that's an awful lot of redundancies. And this is just the beginning - Ashurst eventually intends to roll this programme out across the firm.

    Ashurst in 2019. How it might look.

For now Ashurst is creating 35 new practice executive roles, and it hopes that it will fill a number of these jobs from the pool of secretaries who are at risk of redundancy are up for grabs.

A spokeswoman for the firm said "the way legal work is undertaken has changed considerably and we need an approach to service delivery that most effectively supports the practices and our business."

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Anonymous 04 May 18 02:16

Ouch. That's going to hurt some people. Mind you, if a lot of finance work goes to the EU after Brexit then it won't just be the Ashurst PAs who get made redundant. And on the bright side, those that survive the cull can look forward to 5 times as much work for the same money. What a time to be alive!!!!

Anonymous 04 May 18 05:00

Lovely. "Restructure" the roles, create a fancy new title with a token pay rise, and let them fight to the death to see who can be lucky enough to snag one of the few remaining spots.

I wonder how many additional ivory back scratchers that will buy the partners?

Anonymous 04 May 18 08:42

Pinsents put their PAs on notice of redundancy last autumn, yet since then they have regularly advertised for - PAs!

Anonymous 04 May 18 10:05

The World has moved on with emails and everyone expected to type. I have not had a designated PA for 10+ years. This is business and the right thing to do - why pay for a role that is no longer required? Look at chambers, they seem to manage.

Anonymous 04 May 18 11:07

to nonnymouse at 9.05, chambers doesn't have a PA, but he doesn't need someone to manage his life. He has Mrs chambers. She makes sure he gets his white bread ham sandwiches (no top-crust) each day.

Anonymous 04 May 18 12:19

I have never understood the desire to sack support staff. Let's assume that the total cost of employing a secretary who is responsible for a partner, two associates and a trainee is £50k. At 260 working days in a year that comes to £192 per day. Let's also assume a blended rate for the four people the secretrary is responsible for at, say £250. Between the four of them they need to only get an 8 units a day on the system to justify having a secretary. For the avoidance of doubt, the secretary needs to save them a mere 12 minutes a day each.

I have never met a secretary who was not worth her (mostly "her" for the pedants) weight in gold. Yes, we all do most of own typing and e filing these days but the role has changed. Just booking a room would take those 12 minutes, sorting a train more, doing a bit of copying or printing etc.

Anonymous 04 May 18 13:09

@1115 send outlook invite to meeting attendees cc Reception with note ‘Reception please book room’. 20 seconds tops. Sick of saying pretty please to secretaries just for doing their job. The nearshored typing service has my document sent to my blackberry overnight.

Anonymous 04 May 18 13:46

Looks like everywhere will just have 'typing pools' soon.

But some fee-earners do need dedicated 'email filers' - I know some PAs who spend nearly all day sorting and filing emails, then searching for emails moved by said fee-earners into wrong folders, retrieving archived emails, removing duplicate emails (where emails are copied, rather than moved), ringing IT to get the mailbox size allowance increased, and so on. This alone is a full-time one-to-one job for some. Are these fee-earners going to have to take on this full-time task as well as keeping up with their billing hours?

Anonymous 04 May 18 14:18

Its not technology, its the corporatisation of law firms. Some non-lawyer manager calculated this will save money on paper, and allow them to justify their bonus.

Anonymous 04 May 18 15:06

The way technology is going undoubtedly means that fewer secretaries are needed, but culling 80% at once is extreme. It'll be a big jolt that will get fee earners' backs up, just as Ashurst seemed to be steadying the ship.

Regardless of whether it's a necessary business move or not, many of these secretaries are senior and have been loyal to Ashurst for many years, decades in some cases. It's not an easy time for them to retrain or look for a new role, so I hope the firm does well by those it will let go. I wish them all the best.

Anonymous 04 May 18 17:15

Anon 11:19 - your maths works if and only if the limiting factor on law firm profitability is the availability of sufficient staff. In fact, the limiting factor in reality is the availability of billable work.

Sad, but unfortunately this is the future.

Anonymous 04 May 18 19:53

Dentons are also asking for volunteer secretaries to take redundancy across all offices bet the clients dont know their business is being outsourced to foreign country.

Roll On Friday 04 May 18 20:13

I did consider getting one years ago but it really hasn't been needed. Sometimes you can spend so long explaining something you might as well do it yourself or they haven 't done the thing within the next 10 minutes like you would have done yourself.

Anonymous 08 May 18 12:16

Misguided and spiteful. That should actually be Ashurst’s motto. Cutting support staff is not the answer and I wish those loyal secretaries who must be devastated all the very best in finding somewhere where they will be appreciated. They do exist. I can only imagine the smug expression on the face of the 09.05 commenter - finger typing your vitriol and sneering at “the help” and hope the hatchet swings your way some day.

Anonymous 08 May 18 16:25

Doh! 80% of secretaries being at risk of redundancy doesn't mean 80% of the secretaries will be made redundant. That's just the pool from which redundancies will be made.

Anonymous 09 May 18 12:52

Of 137 secretaries, 100 are going. Quite a basic package so that a secretary who has been there 20 years might expect to leave with £12,000. As long as she “behaves”... anyone not toeing the line will get the very basic package. Those PE roles are quite clearly designed for the younger secretaries - those who were trained by the older ones on the hit list. They are having to test and submit CVs for the jobs they have done with their eyes shut. Those with no children are obviously going to be the successful applicants, as they are expected to attend all functions and be online on their laptops all hours, so their £50k package comes at quite a cost.

Anonymous 09 May 18 15:12

Well that all sounds good for morale. Even those that stay will have resentment towards the place.

Anonymous 18 May 18 11:34

There can be more to a Legal PA's worth other than booking rooms. I have been one for nearly 20 years, specialising in billing and credit control, which involves getting to know and staying close to clients so that I know how to get to the correct people to get bills paid in a timely fashion. This aspect alone represents good value for my salary!!

Anonymous 21 May 18 16:57

Where's this figure of £50K coming from? I saw the role advertised online the other day - and it's not £50K.
Ashurst aren't that generous!! And yes, at the same time as making redundancies, they are advertising externally for the new role. Nice!

Anonymous 30 May 18 23:17

Only 24 secretaries applied to stay - the rest are keen to take the basic pay-out and never look back. Good luck to them!