'Welcome to the office you're fired.'
JMW Solicitors has been accused of pursuing a ‘hire and fire’ culture, ex-employees of the northern firm have told ROF.
Culture is one of the factors people are rating in the RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2024, but some staff were sufficiently exasperated by their experiences at the Manchester-led firm that they spoke to ROF directly. JMW disputed the accuracy of their accounts, but would not specify which elements were incorrect.
The sources, whom ROF is keeping anonymous, were all employed at JMW’s London office.
The office opened in 2019 and now houses around 160 people. Its youth and rapid growth meant churn wasn’t as obvious as it might be in a more established office, said one of the ex-employees.
“The thing that everyone tells you at JMW is, ‘You’re never new for long’. There’s always someone else coming in the next week and the week after."
“You’re expecting that high staff turnover”, they said.
But even to junior lawyers it felt odd, said sources. Two described how a colleague was told to pack up and leave within a day of returning after a short absence.
That lawyer had worked at JMW for under two years so had not accrued the right to bring a claim for unfair or wrongful dismissal - a feature common to other employees who were terminated, according to insiders.
On another occasion a lawyer who was employed for less than a year was dismissed after returning from emergency leave, according to a source.
“There is such a level of anxiety in the firm. People don’t know when other staff are going to disappear”, said one ex-employee. There was even nervousness around disclosing illness or injury at work in case it gave the firm an opening to fire them, they claimed.
“That level of anxiety is hard to explain, where you walk into a room and you don’t know if your position is secure”, said the insider.
Partners were not immune, according to sources. One, who launched and led the London office, "was amazing”, said an ex-employee. “He truly was the London office…he made such an effort to know everyone”.
But this Spring, “We all got an email from the MP in Manchester with just his name as a subject and it basically said, ‘Effective immediately [he] has left over a difference of opinion’ - and that we weren’t to contact him”.
“Within about ten minutes a partner from each department contacted their teams over Zoom or in person to say, ‘it is very common for people in senior leadership positions to just drop away’.”
“Everyone was like, ‘What the fuck?’ We couldn’t believe it. He didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye”.
Staff suspected their boss had clashed with head office over its desire to publish lawyers' time recordings and billings, measures which a source said were subsequently implemented. The former JMW partner did not respond to a request for comment.
Another lawyer told ROF that she was unable to comment on the circumstances of her departure, or anything else, because of the terms of a settlement agreement.
JMW said in a statement, “Our people and our clients are at the forefront of everything we do. Regrettably, it is sometimes necessary for us to part ways with an individual, and we always seek to do so in a way which aligns with the actions of a reasonable and responsible employer. To protect employees past and present we do not comment on individual circumstances”.
JMW’s partner in charge of PR attempted to scare ROF off publication by stating that the account of its former employees "contains factually inaccurate and untrue information. We advise that Roll on Friday [sic] does not publish an article that contains misinformation".
However, when asked to clarify what was inaccurate, he did not respond.