The law firm accused of using underhand tactics to crush an amateur football club is slashing the size of its stadium and transferring players to Reading in an attempt to bolster profits.
Blake Morgan splashed out on two floors at 6 New Street Square in 2015 after merging with Piper Smith Watton. After a fit-out which included giving over half of the upper floor to swish client entertainment space, including an 80-seat seminar suite, it moved in 170 excited lawyers and support staff. Walter Cha, Blake Morgan's Managing Partner, said the firm was looking forward "to an exciting new chapter in the Blake Morgan story”.
Unfortunately the exciting doesn't stop there, and the next chapter in the Blake Morgan story involves moving out again. All but four of the workers on the top floor, currently occupied by the firm's Professional Regulatory team, are being sent to an office in Reading, or will split their time hot-desking between the two. They have to go because the firm is vacating the lower floor, said a source, and it needs somewhere to cram all the staff who work there. A spokeswoman would not confirm that the firm was seeking to sublet one floor and stuff everyone into half the space to save cash, saying instead that Blake Morgan was "leveraging efficiencies".
Last week Blake Morgan boasted that a graduate guide had compared the firm to Ant Man (apparently it can "pack a punch if needed"), and it may have taken the comparison too literally. "It's gonna be hot and sweaty" said an insider, with a notable lack of enthusiasm.
The firm's latest financial results revealed that in 2016/17 its letting costs rose from £1.4m to £2.8m, while over the same period headcount was reduced from 714 to 669 and partnership numbers dropped from 122 to 113.
A spokeswoman rejected reports of multiple redundancies in the London office. She said there was one in the last six months. "As is natural with any law firm of our size" [not that big], she said, "we have had some workforce changes including resignations over recent months".
Asked how many staff were going to be moved into a space half as big as their old digs, she said, "Our London office is an important and valuable part of our proposition to clients nationally and as new space becomes available, we are exploring how we can 'work smarter' and make our workspace design more collaborative". Remembering the question to be answered, she added "The finer logistical details are still being resolved", which didn't take things much further forward.
Luckily the firm's Managing Partner, Mike Wilson, was able to able clarify the important details. "It is notable that profits per equity partner have encouragingly increased by 18%, from £204k to £240k" he ejaculated.
He said the decision to shunt people to Reading and hot desks "comes primarily from our move towards 'smart working'", and said the prof reg team were "championing the scheme".
Blake Morgan was criticised last year for helping a client secretly trademark all the names of a community football club it wanted to evict, provoking a backlash which forced the firm to hide the details of the partner in charge. It has issues with sports in general, having once relaunched as a golf club by accident.
A junior solicitor told RollOnFriday, "the general message is that 'everything is fine!' which seems to be shouted in more shrill tones each week".