"Here's to the next variation!"
Wright Hassall's partners have kept £300,000 in government Covid grants despite rocketing profits.
In 2021, the Leamington Spa-based firm called on the taxpayer to provide it with £305,013 to help stave off the effects of the pandemic. However, the money failed to protect jobs and Wright Hassall’s headcount dropped from 285 staff to 244. Its annual accounts show that 30 fee-earners left the firm, which a year later is advertising to fill 21 positions.
A spokesperson for Wright Hassall defended the firm's conduct, telling RollOnFriday, "At the start of Covid our business was impacted to a large degree. Some staff were furloughed to protect their jobs and that is what the funding was used for".
”We were sadly unable to maintain all those posts and were forced to lose staff but the funding did exactly what it was intended to do and was fundamental in preserving jobs at a very testing time", he said.
As a result of the swingeing job cuts, Wright Hassell's wage bill plummeted from £13.6m to £9.4m. Conversely, the profits available to be divided up amongst the firm's 13 equity members soared from £1.85m to £2.86m.
The pandemic proved especially profitable for the highest paid member of Wright Hassall, who enjoyed a £175k pay rise last year. A year earlier they had to make do with £225,514, but in spite of their best efforts to protect their employees rather than enrich themselves, their income in 2021 rocketed to £399,266. It was the most the firm's highest-earning member of the firm has been paid since 2016.
Wright Hassall's spokesperson said, "As with many businesses, we adjusted and thanks to the dedication of our people, in time, our levels of businesses [sic] increased and our fortunes returned, and this is reflected in the rise in income and fees across our firm".
He declined to identify the person whose "fortuned returned" the most, saying, "We do not comment on detailed financial matters or reveal personal salary details". RollOnFriday asked Wright Hassall whether its partners had any intention of repaying the £300k. It declined to answer.
Wright Hassall joins Vardags - which also clung on to government grants while popping champagne corks on a bumper year - in the Wuhan wet market of shame.
I hope their clients express their disgust by ceasing to instruct them - absolutely appalling.
Two sets of lawyers are in the wrong here:
1. the parasitical partners of Wright Hassle; and
2. whichever firm advised the Government yet failed to have the foresight to include conditions against this situation.
Was it ever confirmed that Wombles had paid back all the money they took from the taxpayer? If not, can they be featured next week?
Going to need all that extra cash to pay the recruitment commission on all the vacancies
We are almost two years on now to when this was introduced. At the time loads of law firms and other business introduced furlough because there was a brief panic where everyone thought it was going to get like 2008.
However for the last two years most firms have been busier than ever.
even if the initial decision to take payments was justifiable the decision to hold those payments and not return them on the back of high profits just doesn’t sit right. A lot of firms paid back when they realised the money couldn’t really be justified. The payments in these situations weren’t actually needed were they?
I’m sure there are stacks of firms who have done similar. Those that have been called out have by and large been shamed into paying back.
a table of law firms taking furlough, profits and whether paid back would make interesting reading.
one for panels and tenders in the future as to what approach law firms (and other professional service companies took)?
I hope the partners at Wright Hassel are ashamed of themselves.
I'm sure that their shame drives them to shed salt tears into their diamond-encrusted pillows that we paid for.
"I hope the partners at Wright Hassel are ashamed of themselves."
Can confirm that they are not.
You may now expend your mental energy on an alternative pursuit.
They should be ashamed of themselves. I hope this gets reported more widely - potential PR nightmare
I have to say I enjoy reading any story about this firm purely because of the nominative determinism at play.
Shocking behaviour! Anyone working with this firm should cut ties immediately! Greedy
Wombles paid back all furlough money in full July 2021 according to their accounts.
The Equity Partners should hold their heads in shame and be made to return the government grants. At the start of the pandemic they also "asked" staff to contribute a percentage of their salary to "help the business" and save jobs. Have ALL those staff members, who contributed to your massive dividends, had their "help" reimbursed to them with interest Wright Hassall?? Dont think so, as I'm still waiting!
There are others in the Top 50 who have not repaid the furlough cash.
Maybe ROF should report on them too? Why pick on one firm?
Well, that was a ‘right hustle…
What about those firms that reduced pay? Have they repaid the money taken from employees?
Same Wombles accounts that show multi millions earned from their cash cow client Post Office on the Project Horizon litigation that has been described by the inquiry as the worse miscarriage of justice ever. Be interesting to see what the inquiry says about the Wombles who were earning 10,s of millions in litigation against innocent sub-postmasters 33 who died before they could clear their names and countess others made bankrupt and put in prison in respect of debts they never owed . Blood money. Perhaps Wombles who were shamed into paying back the Furlough will be shamed into paying millions in to a fund to help the innocent sub-postmasters with the role of Wombles as legal gymnasts described by Court of Appeal to perform every legal manoeuvre in the book to stop these innocent subpostmasters getting their day in court. No doubt this weighed heavily in the decision for GLD to drop Wombles from its coveted panel appointment .
Despite what they say, this firm does only care about money, not the people that work or have worked for them!
They've lost way more people than this article suggests. They went through 3 rounds of redundancies and dressed some of them up as other factors (less than 2 years service so terminating contracts with immediate notice).
Re anon 21.01 on other firms
1. I don’t think this firm is in top 50.
2. ROF and gazette have reported other firms. See below re Ince and Reed Smith. Looks like Reed Smith repaid their money after being rumbled.
This is terrible. Pressure was placed upon all staff, particularly the juniors who wanted career progression, to take pay cuts. Learning now that the partners profited out of this when others struggled to make ends meet is disgusting.
I used to work for this firm (pre-pandemic) but handed in my resignation letter very quickly. The firm is poison. You only have to search "Wright Hassall reviews" for dozens of reviews from very unhappy staff and clients over several years. I am not surprised to read this article at all. The Head of Employment (who advises the firm on internal HR matters) should be ashamed of herself..... And clients should go elsewhere to a reputable firm for their advice.
Do the accounts show whether Wombles paid back the interest they squirrelled on the furlough cash?
Having worked there previously, nothing about this article's revelation is a surprise. This is a firm which organised it's Christmas party in mid-January every year to help minimise costs.
It's not hard to work out a likely person for the "fortuned returned" either - one need only Google the recently departed Managing Partner for the most likely cluedo suspect.
Why on earth should the firm care about ex employees?
Stay in touch, sure. But no obligation beyond that. Do ex employees add value to the firm once they’ve left? Stop being soft and think about it.
Care about your ex colleagues, as they care about you. The firm is different.
Furlough was for our benefit. They complied. We paid. End of.
Flexible, Ambitious, Inclusive, Respectful - the Wright Hassall values