Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner is playing good cop bad cop with staff, easing off on pandemic pay reductions while simultaneously making redundancies.
The firm imposed 15% pay cuts in May on staff earning more than £32,000, but a "stronger than expected" start to 2020 means it will lower the reductions to 7.5% from August to the end of the year.
But 19 lawyers and 26 business services staff in the UK will experience permanent pay cuts of 100%. BCLP said that in the face of continued economic uncertainty around the globe, it was undertaking "targeted reductions". The latest redundancies follow 30 (long-planned) job cuts in April.
BCLP downplayed the significance of the latest redundancies, stating that they would impact a "very small proportion" of its workforce. The firm is also closing its "small Beijing office". The outpost was described on BCLP's website as part of the firm's "strong presence" in the region, but times change, and now its demise represents the firm "tightening its footprint in Asia".*
"While a difficult decision to make, we believe the limited adjustments to our workforce are in the best interest of our clients, our business, and our people for the long term”, said BCLP co-chairs Lisa Mayhew and Steve Baumer. "Looking ahead, we plan to continue taking proactive steps to provide as much clarity as we can to all our colleagues and to ensure our Firm is best positioned moving forward".
Travers Smith has also taken new cost-cutting measures, but it has steered clear of redundancies. Instead it has deferred salary reviews and reduced its annual firm-wide bonus. A source complained that Travers had cut the bonus "despite the firm recording its third highest revenue ever‘". A Travers spokesperson explained that a bonus was still being paid, albeit at a "reduced rate".
The City firm appears to be trying to navigate an equitable 'share the pain' approach. Back in April, it reduced monthly drawings for partners and deferred their profit distributions. Travers has also made no use of the government furlough scheme and, throughout the crisis, has kept all its staff on full pay.
"The last few months have seen trading conditions unlike any we have seen previously; however, the firm continues to perform well and the measures we have put in place help us ensure prudent cash management during this period", said a spokesperson.
*It's been illegal in China to tighten actual footprints since 1912.