How the briefing might have looked.
Freshfields is reorganising its business services operations by outsourcing to a French company and offshoring to Slovakia, RollOnFriday can confirm.
The Magic Circle firm has informed staff that a significant number of IT roles will be moved to Atos, the French IT provider, with the majority of those affected to be offered the option of shifting to the company, while a centre is also due to open in Bratislava. "Lots of technical (1st/2nd/3rd line) people from the Manchester office have changed their LinkedIn profiles to 'looking for roles' yesterday", commented a source.
Freshfields set up a low-cost office in Manchester in 2015 when it moved the majority of its UK support team out of London, but the latest move indicates that it is looking to make greater savings by moving further away, potentially signalling the future for back office functions at other firms.
"The proposed changes may include outsourcing elements of our IT and tech support to a leading supplier to provide a more consistent global service, and the opening of an additional shared services centre in Bratislava, Slovakia", a spokesperson told RollOnFriday. "This would supplement our existing centre in Manchester which will continue to play an important role within the firm", they said.
"While we believe that the modernisation of our Business Services model will ensure that we enhance collaboration and continue to offer the most attractive career path, we are conscious of the impact that these changes may have on some colleagues. As you would expect we will provide full support to all colleagues as we work through the implementation of the proposed changes", they added.
It's been a febrile few weeks at Freshfields since ROF broke the news of the plans, with unsettled insiders reporting how the rumour mill "continues to churn at a high rate". Someone sent ROF a photo of a whiteboard in the Manchester office displaying a strategy titled 'Project Warsaw' which set out onerous 'Stages' referring to "Underperformers" and "Light weight teams". However, the firm is understood to have no such project by that name, indicating that the photo was staged by a motivated prankster.
Some staff told RollOnFriday the affected teams were the victims of mismanagement. "IT made themselves an easy target for this because for years, fee earning staff have not been happy about delivery and support of IT services", said a source. They claimed IT chiefs "all paid lip service to listening to what the business needed, but all got carried away with expensive, wasteful vanity projects...All the Partners ever wanted was to get the basics of the core services right".
"The final straw was probably the opening of the Silicon Valley office", said an insider. "New partners there were not afraid to speak out about the crappy service and tools offered to them".
The firm's spokesperson said, "Freshfields is trusted to provide world class advice to our global client base, comprising some of the world’s most dynamic organisations. Evolving our operating model is central to our strategy to remain at the forefront of the legal industry and underpins how we deliver exceptional service to our clients, support our talent and adapt to the new working environment. We have announced a number of proposed changes to our Business Services model, which we believe will help us to further elevate our client service".
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