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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The restructure is beyond IT, changes are a foot across business services with many teams changing and people being binned
If clients know that IT can be outsourced to another country, how long will it take to work out you can employ the legal profession from another country at a much reduced cost.
How is this likely to affect daily life at the firm?
Guess this is this price you have to pay for the juicy salary bands
Precisely the kind of inter-European brotherhood and solidarity that the EU stands for and facilitates, and which the UK was at sore risk of losing after Brexit.
It almost brings a tear to my eye to see Freshfields continuing to embrace the spirit of the unbridled good of Free Movement. Truly a burning flame of Europeanism which keeps the light on for Britain's eventual return to the European State.
Only a Brexiteer could think that this was anything other than a good thing.
It will be back in house, 3 years max.
They’re not wrong about the crappy tools being provided. Millions spent trying to become the next google (funded by VW dieselgate) whilst they can’t even get the wifi to work in an office! Sadly not even making this up.
It’s the insane processes we have to deal with bundled with the the deluded and cut throat management we have in place. That is the reason there is ‘crappy service’.
Yet ironically all the deluded senior managers get to stay along with their crappy processes. (For now. Phase 4 of project Warsaw? That isn’t true?)
Also having glorified business analysts (or worse total blaggers) design technical solutions and wonder why things don’t work well is beyond me.
The politics of the place is truly astounding and true innovation, solid design and impeccable delivery of that and the people that could actually support a good service are completely locked away and left to rot (yes there is enough of us here still that could have delivered at a fraction of the cost spent on contractors and 3rd parties and waste of space deluded managers, god knows why)
I am not sure how FF moving Helpdesk and IT services to ATOS will improve service. One of the many horrible partners here will not be able to phone up and demand their non working mouse or locked down pornhub is fixed on the spot with an outsourced service provider or think they’ll be able to berate the person taking the call anymore either. If I were ATOS I’d run a mile from frontline service desk calls.
And will ATOS have to endure our crap processes still? That’ll just lead to the service being even more terrible but giving them an excuse as to why when service reviews happen. Perfect excuse already there for them. Money for old rope.
FF are like rabbits in the headlights here. They deserve everything that is coming to them if they think this is the way forwards.
And to think they probably paid McKinsey millions to come up with this ‘strategy’ too. Wastage everywhere that is on a scale that I have never seen and yet they are doing this to save money and make service better. LOL. It’s almost funny if it didn’t affect so many peoples lives.
The weather in Bratislava is lovely this time of year...
The large US firms maintain profitability and reduce burden by having large Business Services operations within the USA … guess that’s the difference between them and us
Stay away from the Manchester office especially if you're a graduate.
Just been informed the wifi does actually work when I disable airplane mode. Whatever that is it looks like it has actually fixed it. Yet another work around though. Why can’t it work with airplane mode on?
Just because you can doesn't mean you should
A lesson the Freshfields IT team failed to learn and now the business structuring teams is getting wrong as well.
Keep it all in house and get an IT director who provides services that lawyers want and use.
Or you could spend millions chasing a magic bullet I suppose....
The irony of Freshfields paying a hugely expensive London PR agency to shape their messaging about business services cuts, offshoring and outsourcing.
$Project Warsaw is in the Global Address List for all to see
$Project Warsaw is visible in Active Directory so why the thumbs down?
This article is more concise and informative than the comms issued to employees.
As an ex Manchester employee - The business services in Manchester needed a shake up there was a massive post COVID slump. The leaks aren't great and they could have given Manchester IT another chance however they've got no one to blame but themselves.
IT got lazy, self-entitled and concentrated on vanity tech project and pointless processes instead of servicing the business core.
Sadly the managers who did the damage have left already and the hard working lower down operation teams left to suffer. Hopefully this example makes the rest of Manchester wake up and know they could be next probably HR next. But generally IT department aside the Manchester Freshfields office is a fantastic place to work. I wish them the best.
Those berating Manchester IT need to stop and consider the impact this has on employees livelihoods, family and beyond. People are losing their jobs. Some will struggle to find new ones. These people have young kids, mortgages, debts. It’s worrying times.
Unless you have walked in their shoes, truly understand how this has come to be and are in a position to do better yourselves I strongly suggest you have some respect and stay quiet.
All this rubbish about clients, their fees will continue to increase as partners take home megabucks, but the service will be the same old average advice.
From what I have heard from friends in Freshfields, the management see business services as an evil, and pay far less than silver circle. They will lose the people they need, and all the associates will be expected to be doing what business services used to do and will be queuing up to join us. It's an own goal.
Freshfields' approach shows that the management does not understand business. We are falling over ourselves laughing.
If you are not a fee-earner at Freshfields you are worthless.
As a Freshfields-trained associate I find the arrangement acceptable. We need to cognisant of the fact that business is business; there isn’t a real reason to keep IT local unless the benefit exceeds cost, which isn’t the case here. The IT team is fine, but are they 4 times better than Slovaks? I don’t think so.
IT can be outsourced because it’s a back office cost centre, a view shared by many of my peers and partners at the firms. You can say that by analogy a tech company could outsource in-house legal function to a cheaper jurisdiction which I’d understand the business rationale. I know it’s cruel, but these are necessary steps to keep the firm competitive particularly in the midst of pay/talent war both on the partner and associate level.
Seems pretty typical that Freshfields would now try something that has been tried in the past and fallen out of favour, usually as a result of poor service, most people learned these lessons painfully but I guess FF are eager to learn too. Always seemed to be their way really, they’d ask, “What we’re people doing 5 years ago?” And do a worse job of it.
The firm survives on huge contracts from corporate clients, though I would expect these to start drying up, 40% of the firms revenue is from VW, when this dries up (and it will) I would also expect to see associate heads rolling.
It’s not about Slovaks being better or worse.
Freshfields is trying to save money pure and simple to pay more money to ‘fee earners’ and associates.
Guess what, the point people are trying to make is you will soon find out this plan will cost the firm more. I can’t wait. Plus all the upheaval of moving backend services (again) around will cause unnecessary issues with the services you rely on. To make money. How ironic. Its almost like you could say we are a part of that fee earning system. Obviously not. We are that unnecessary evil cost that stops you taking more money yourselves.
It’s surprising as a Manchester employee thinking partners must be clever when it comes to law are actually idiots when it comes to common sense allowing this to happen. Again. After moving services from London to Manchester to save a few quid. Now from Manchester to Slovakia.
It’s about getting the right IT service provider and managing the relationship well. There isn’t anything bad in focusing on the core business and buying in what you can’t do effectively. I seen this work well and bad and each time it’s down to the contract and the management of it after signing. If you have incompetent mid level managers being told to manage outsourced services you still get disfunctional teams afterward.
@Legal_IT 27 May 22 11:33
>It will be back in house, 3 years max.
No. Taking it back will be seen as a climb-down by the management, and admission of poor judgement. The ship will go down before they change the course. I have seen this a few times myself, and as it was pointed out earlier, many of the people who are fired will never get a job again.
A few Partners at Freshfields have been micro managing IT, and other departments for years. Believing they are experts in subjects they know nothing about, demanding rollouts and implementations are conducted according to their instructions.
Freshfields decision makers think IT is: Outlook, Word, PowerPoint and Excel (for the IT illiterate lawyers).
I am sure that crazy […] Partner in […] who has an interest in IT is going to lose his mind dealing with Atos. Atos will not last 3 years and will walk from the contract (if they have not gone under by then).
Chris M, this will save the firm zero £. Freshfields’ IT budget is pathetic for a consultancy firm.
Most people in IT do/support three jobs. In-office, local support have been understaff for years.
Atos’s employees will just look at that stressed lawyer/Partner who is complaining because something does not work, then look at the time and say, I am off, see you tomorrow. Haha
Some say lawyers are often not good leaders and you’re undoubtedly one of them. Law firm is a people business and you cannot discard support staff like prophylactic.
It’s interesting to see this when competitors - eg Linklaters - are ramping up their tech efforts and doing stuff that people actually care about.
There have been some bad calls in recent years. Lots of money spent on things that haven’t been delivered, and with the new swathe of US partners they said enough is enough.
this will backfire, and things will be brought in house again in 3-5 years. Freshfields is becoming more and more like Kirkland, other magic circle firms are recognising things like IT are not just a cost centre but are pretty fundamental to how the business operates.
There is an agenda here - obliterate business services and create a “no-frills” operation.
Chris M, you are going to be in for a nasty shock somewhere down the line. Especially when you realise the cull of the Business Services team taking place at the same time. Years of experience and knowledge walking out the door in a few months time to be sort of replaced in Manchester by god knows who.
Good luck Chris M. You're going to need it.
Chris M, your mindset is repellent. I also disagree that the many fee earners within the firm (other than management) are supportive of this. I rather get paid less to keep the IT team - they’re good people.
It's actually really sad - the IT systems were terrible at first but have really improved recently in the last year when the firm finally upgraded to Windows 10, started buying Surface Pros (instead of those cheap and horrible HP laptops), invested in a proper VPN solution (thank god!) and good monitors and workstation setups.
The problems with IT didn't stem from the IT department, but from short-sighted "cheap" solutions like paying very little for our contract with Relativity, not investing properly in tech solutions that our competitors like Linklaters (and god forbid, even Slaughter and May) are buying because of terribly underpaying our tech procurement team, and just generally having a lot of churn in the IT department because everyone in Manchester keeps leaving for Latham.
And just when it seems like the IT modernisation project is finished they lay everyone off. It's actually terrible and I can't see how they'll achieve a good service in the handover period.
Frankly, Freshfields haven’t been performing too well compared to their MC peers for obvious reasons. Their work quality is simply not as good and their precedents are peppered with errors, which could have been picked up by the tech that we have in-house. I also can’t think of a particular practice area that Freshfields are genuinely good at: Links/A&O for finance, CC/Slaughters for corporate/M&A.
This is what happy when you let Americans rule the roost.
It'll be like a Tesla. Awesome. Cutting edge. High performance. Big bucks. Cash rolling in.
But it'll look like a 90s ford Mondeo with zero personality or sex appeal. And Europeans will hate it.
Best of luck Freshfields - I hear you can get even cheaper sweatshops in India / China.
Agreed. Some of the Freshfields associates are no good at all - better off outsourcing the divisions to the Far East.
hmm interesting, my fellow tell me $Project Warsaw is no longer visible in the GAL since recent days!
This is an interesting one. In my view top firms should keep their IT Teams in London but Partners in law firms often hate spending money on IT kit or staff and go for the cheapest option.
Then there's the IT staff. Law firms don't necessarily attract good IT staff due to the salaries (see above). The pay rates I've seen for IT support staff in law firms are often mediocre. So no surprise the IT staff and in-house service is ropey as you aren't going to attract the best.
Then there's working in law firms. Given support staff in law firms are often treated as a second class citizens I'm surprised anyone wants to sign up. That said, they are straightforward organisations. To conclude it's a tough sell.
@Chris M - just bear this in mind,
The next time you or one of your greedy partner colleagues wants something fixed ASAP, because it’s annoying your client, or costing the Freshfields money, you won’t be able to scream and shout at the support staff when it suits and expect them to jump. They’ll just sit back and explain politely, ‘Listen - we have an SLA of four hours to fix this, sorry..but tough shit’.
As an engineer with over twenty years experience in the IT industry I’ve seen it all before. It won’t be too long before you and your buddies will be screaming for IT to be brought back in-house, maybe not immediately, but wait a while..
I give it three years maximum.
@ watching with popcorn
Just because the list is hidden in GAL it can still be seen in AD and Exchange management console!
Surprisingly enough the salary offered for IT roles in Legal is very competitive indeed. Obviously Finance beats Legal hands down, but when you start comparing to FTSE 100's then legal actually come ahead (for a lot of roles). Legal can't compete with the tech companies for obvious reasons.
The mediocrity of the middle and senior technology managers at this firm knows no limit. To say that they are deluded (as an accurate post above has) is actually being far too kind to them. What they are is frighteningly incompetent. And where they have led us is frankly unforgivable.
The abject carousel of senior managers that the IT function has been subjected to in the last five years should bring shame on that boardroom. How senior business people can be gulled so easily is astonishing. Not one of these senior managers has had a serious role in an enterprise IT department before rocking up at Freshfields. And to a man (and woman) they have all conned the Freshfields boardroom into giving them their first leg up on an extremely lucrative career where failure is rewarded with another highly paid role at a 'global' firm and another phoney e-mail thanking them for a 'great contribution' does the rounds, while the next one shuffles in. All the while no serious enterprise processes get put in place, or more importantly: followed. Create a process and follow it that's all it ever needed. But no, it's all just lip-service and it all gets abandoned the second some entitled partner kicks-off and undermines and belittles the IT staff who actually want to help them.
There is clearly no shortage of gullible boardrooms that can't decide if they're a law firm or a tech firm and who will swallow so much TED talk 'agile' guff in the process of figuring out that software development & IT infrastructure (like law) is best left to those who understand it. People who know how to how hard the damn job is, how demanding it is out of hours, some of us with decades of experience, and years of learning. Enterprise IT is not 'innovation' departments filled with phoney blaggers or solution architects that are learning on the job what those two words actually mean. And all the while partners' money was spent with gay abandon. More fool them. I’m saddened, but not surprised, that they have finally taken an axe to it.
And rest assured the money that has been wasted is truly terrifying. Hundreds of thousands wasted on software and hardware - shipped all over the world - and never used. Millions on contractors, there for years on end - easily earning five to six times the average IT worker’s rate (and flaunting it) - the whole time knowing they've delivered the bare-minimum solution to milk for as long as feasibly possible to their mesmerised fool of a manager who doesn't know one end of a computer from the other. Third-parties brought in constantly for simple projects that could easily be done in-house if the managers had even the most basic technical chops and an ability to listen just once to people around them who just might know what they are talking about.
All of their phoney largesse would be amusing if decent, skilled, IT workers didn't now have to pony up and pay for it with their careers. Because here's the rub: all of these managers have engineered it so they get to stay. Think about that. They'll all get to mug Freshfields for even longer and nothing at all will improve. They'll all still spend their afternoons getting plastered down the Ivy with the same IT vendors who smiled and took them to the cleaners on every single deal. It's horrifying and it shows just how much front these people have.
And what is the solution to all this? Throw millions at McKinsey who no doubt sees Freshfields coming and tell you to throw even more out the window at ATOS, of all people. A company with, let's say, questionable ethical standards when it comes the disabled members of our community and their right to benefits. A company who will heartily laugh down the phone at your petty lawyers’ demands. They will finally show you what an enterprise process is, Freshfields. They will school you. God knows we all tried.
The end can't come soon enough. Never again.
all will be well we are told. D & I have it covered. Right !