Fladgate dismissed lawyers on their probationary period as it sought to make savings during the coronavirus pandemic, it has been claimed.

The firm recently ended the employment of at least two associates while they were on their probation period, said a source, but the solicitors were "expressly told" that it was was "nothing to do with performance".

Instead they were told they were being let go because they were "soft targets" who would not incur redundancy costs, said the insider. The source suggested it would only have cost the firm "a couple of hundred quid a month" to furlough the lawyers "while they hunt for pastures new". It was "harsh, from such an elite firm", they added.

Last week RollOnFriday revealed Fladgate was preparing to embark on a redundancy process, which a source said was "disingenuous" given it had already been letting its newest lawyers go.


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"It seems to me that probation is there to protect firms from duff performance from people who are very good at interview, which is fair enough", said a source, whereas "redundancy seems to mean the job no longer exists". 

On the upside, Fladgate is apparently conducting ‘tea with a partner’ Zoom meetings to check staff wellbeing, during which work discussion "is expressly off the agenda". A source described the group chats as "creepy".

Fladgate did not respond to a request for comment. Perhaps because it has also let go of its head of comms, along with multiple other staff who were employed on fixed term contracts, RollOnFriday understands.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Anonymous 03 July 20 09:17

Not the only firm who did this. Know of a construction and engineering firm which also did the same due to having little work about so kicked out a probationer claiming bad performance when they'd only worked on a handful of files and had mainly positive feedback on them. 

anon 03 July 20 10:29

I’m afraid that a firm is operating entirely within the law to let people go like this - the contractual notice period is normally a month on both sides in the probation period and whilst it may be unedifying the firm is clearly in difficulties if it is having to let people go whom it had a business need to hire a few months before.   No firm wants to let good people go but if you’re struggling and worried about the future you do what you have to do. 

Anon 03 July 20 10:38

At least Fladgate is being honest by the sounds of it with its people - the unethical approach is to blame a probationer for a bad performance when they have in fact done well, to cover up the real reason which is the firm is in the s***

ANON 03 July 20 11:07

Across the board there is a regrettable attitude of blaming the candidate/employee - whoever, when being told 'No' or being pushed.  Of course sometime it is true, but often not.  I came across an instance of a 4yr pqe being turned down as not being 'senior partner material'.  That firm had just worked out its work was drying up fast.

In the end, telling the truth at least tells the candidate where he or she has to improve or change, or else gives bleak, but positive encouragement.

a 03 July 20 11:50

So the Partners reap the benefits when business is good and expect others to take the fall when business is bad? 

Simpleton 03 July 20 12:14

I hear there has been major blood letting at Plexus with a raft of redundancies of mid rank associates.  What is sad however is that the usual suspects survive but brown nosing and back stabbing is needed to survive there these days so its to be expected.  Also don't mention the numbers on furlough. Good times!

Another Anon 03 July 20 12:16

RoF has no idea how many people have suffered this fate at the expense of incompetent partners.

Anonymous 03 July 20 12:55

@Anon 03 July 20 10:38

 

You have nailed it. 

It would be preferable for the firm to sit you down and say:

- When we took you on we projected a lot of profitable work and things to run smoothly;

- Covid-19 has let to work levels drying up;

- You know the old rule of thumb about "last in, first out";

- Associates at the more senior end are expensive. The partners bring in the work and accept the risk so we need them now, and the junior staff can be used to cover this tough time as they are cheaper and easier to manipulate to do more for less;

- This isn't personal and we will give you a reference in kind terms; and

- Please consider us again in the future. While we will place you on gardening leave for a month we would be open to you returning when the market recovers. 

Gobblepig 03 July 20 13:57

The idea of Fladgate having access to a corporate jet, or indeed any sort of aircraft that does not have "Ryanair" emblazoned on the side, is hehsome.

BST2019 03 July 20 14:55

I actually spat out my coffee, literally, when I read the reference to them being an elite firm

Anon 03 July 20 16:38

They may have acted lawfully and been honest and up front with the probationers as to why they were being binned, but that doesn’t make it any less shameful. Many people will have given up long-term, relatively safe jobs in other firms to join a firm that promised good culture (self-promoted - every lawyer knows that ‘culture’ is corporate bullsh*t) and prospects, subject only to decent performance in the probationary period. Those people, taken in by that promise, will now likely face a period of unemployment in order to preserve partners’ (already heaving) wallet share, since no-one is hiring at the moment. Being honest about the reasons for ditching them doesn’t make the pill any less bitter to swallow. This should affect lawyers’ willingness to work for these firms and clients’ desire to instruct them. Sadly, I have zero confidence that it will...

Anonymous 03 July 20 17:44

@ 16:38

I left my firm of 5.5 years tenure to join a smaller outfit in February. Within the first 6 weeks the feedback was going ok. Then mid-March the working from home kicks in and facilities team were furloughed with firm topping up. Come very early April I was given the "its not working out" speech and a month's gardening leave. Been unemployed since. The firm is just churning out articled on their website as they don't have enough work to bill. It's a minefield out there now as the few hiring firms are screwing on salaries. Typically offering a pay cut of £5k. Just got offered a 6 month fixed term contract and forced to take it next week. It's rubbish.

Anon at a national firm 03 July 20 18:18

I work for a national firm.  We are not doing redundancies.  We all anticipate there will be redundancies but the firm is waiting for others to go first so we don't get the headlines.

However, we are quietly doing everything else.  Not passing people on probation who are good enough, not renewing fixed term contracts when they've been with the firm for a long time, withdrawing offers of employment when people have already handed their notice in.  All of the above but it doesn't make the headlines as it's done quietly.  I should add that we are now drowning in work and could really do with a lot of those people.

Those of us with a few grey hairs have seen it all before but when they did it in 2009 they all said they had learned the lessons.  They said they wouldn't over react.

Plexus Boy 03 July 20 19:21

Nice to see the haters back. Thanks Simpleton. You are wrong of course. Then truth at Plexus is that the firm has voluntarily topped up the salaries of furloughed staff to 100% and no staff below Partner Level - none - zero - have had their pay cut. Major blood letting - what a headline! Raft of associates - do you work for a red top in the 1980s?  Keep on hating! 

Anon 03 July 20 19:24

“withdrawing offers of employment when people have already handed their notice in”

Now that really is a low point.  Subject to what has been signed (and you’re foolish in this market if you don’t get your new contract signed before you resign) then you will at least get your notice pay plus accrued holiday.   

Anonymous 03 July 20 20:22

The whole situation is awful, and my heart genuinely goes out to the people affected. And having been through something similar myself the last time around I can empathise. But what this article, which is the height of click bait, really amounts to is: ‘Law firm makes redundancies in the face of the biggest recession in a generation’. It is truly awful - I don’t underplay that at all - but it’s not surprising. Neither is the fact that those on probation are the most at risk, as rubbish as that is. Sad to say many more firms are doing the same, or almost certainly will be. Though for all our sakes I’d love to be proven wrong. 

Anon 03 July 20 20:56

@20.22 - I think you’re taking a hugely broad brush approach.  Obviously the economy is relevant but the state of the economy is the occasion but  not the operative cause of the manner and nature of the way people are let go.   One of the issues is about how firms communicate and manage ending the employment of e.g. someone on probation.   The fact that there are hard economic times doesn’t cause the firm to lie to that person and blame them for their own termination, and avoid any reference to the economic reasons, and that’s one of the points in issue.   It goes to ethics and culture.   It’s important because it shows what firms are really like behind the PR bullshit and in this climate things like this do matter. 

Anonymous 03 July 20 21:13

Hey Plexus Boy.  Like your name btw.  Was Simpleton wrong about the redundancy of good n loyal associates or is that inaccurate?  Let's see what the tribunal says. 

Anonymous 03 July 20 23:08

Who gives a damn about what reasons are given, the bottom line is that the job is lost. Many will have given up secure roles for these jobs and now cannot find anything. 

What is also shameful is that many firms take tax-payers money to furlough staff just because they can, not because they need to. Would love to see a list of these firms published with their accounts over the next few years. 

The Lawyer 06 July 20 10:10

so the CV-19 staff cull [so far hidden or denied by firms] is making national headlines; sadly it seems staff at BLM are at risk 

Anonymous 07 July 20 08:30

In fairness, Plexus always had a high turnover of staff. I started off my career doing high pressure bulk Defendant PI work in Manchester under a particularly nasty boss. No-one lasted long.  They don't need to make redundancies. If they stop recruiting, in six months they would have no-one apart from a receptionist and an HR manager.

Anonymous 07 July 20 08:38

Fladgate - the mid-tier West End firm not quite as elite as you may have been led to believe and which suffered a stream of partner exits last year.

Anonymous 07 July 20 08:43

If it's any solace to those being made redundant, the "negative performance review" is a well-worn path for managers cynically to ditch decent people when the business is faltering. Keep your shoulders back, head up, eyes straight; fight it if it makes sense to do so, but the fact that the firm does this should tell you it's time to find somewhere better at a time that works for you.

Arachnae 07 July 20 13:42

It sounds like they just did what they had to do in a reasonably civilised way. If you think this is a tough one, just watch this space. Those of us who remember legal practice 2008/9 can tell you all about it. I left Halliwells after we were being told "instructions have dropped off a cliff" but before they got into real trouble.

Could you please explain this category, however, not of magic/silver/national/regional/top 50/top 100, but "Elite" firms and who else you consider occupies it?

Wrong again about Plexus 08 July 20 14:42

Actually, anon at 08.30 7th July, Plexus has a very low turnover of staff. That is a fact and a matter of public record. Far less than many other firms and in single figures % wise. All clients know that as it is in RFPs and of course the firm is a Company and not a secret Partnership. If you want to spout off to harm the firm or its reputation at least get your facts right. Plexus isn’t perfect but it’s a lot better than the haters would have you think - which is why they lie so much. 

Anonymous 08 July 20 19:29

Just sayin':

https://www.thelawyer.com/issues/online-february-2017/plexus-law-completes-third-redundancy-round-three-years/

Plexus HR 08 July 20 23:14

I love how these comments have gone from all about FF to now Plexus. Seems that firm has a lot of bad history with some folk. But there are a lot of supporters of Plexus which is very unusual but I reckon it's a same person or persons doing the positive reporting.  Probably some clown who raves about places like Beech Rd or who drives a leased alfa romeo  

Ha ha Haters #Plexus 08 July 20 23:47

To Anon at 8 July 19.29:  try harder MoFo. That’s 3 year old Shi£E.!!!!!! Ha ha ha !!!!!  Quoting 2017 press stuff - ha ha ha. I wish I had socks on to laugh them off!!! #desperate. Gotta love the desperation of the haters. We remain flattered. Keep paying attention #Plexus : Our clients love us more than you hate us. #enoughSaid 

Jengo 09 July 20 14:12

The issues at Fladgate predate Covid by some time. Revolving door and a poisonous atmosphere!

 

 

Anon 09 July 20 16:18

I couldn't agree more with Jengo (14:12). There is a seriously toxic atmosphere in some departments which seem to be run by glamorous psychopaths. Those being made redundant should look for somewhere which actually practices what it preaches.

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