linklaters voluntary redundancy

"Hmm, the take-up's been higher than expected."


Linklaters has offered voluntary redundancy to all its secretaries in London.

In total, 225 legal secretaries and business team PAs have been given the opportunity to take a severance package. 

Confirming the move, Linklaters said in a statement that it was a voluntary programme "which we are offering as we continue to focus on innovative ways of working and shaping our secretarial teams to support a more agile working policy for the longer term". 

The move follows Linklaters’ decision to allow its fee-earners to continue to work from home, for up to 50% of the time, on a permanent basis post-lockdown. The anticipated take-up by lawyers means many of the tasks which PAs would have performed in the office will now be undertaken by the fee-earners themselves, in their pyjamas, at home. 

A source close to management said Linklaters had no internal targets for the number of PAs it aimed to lose, and no plans for compulsory redundancies or redundancies in other groups. 

The source said some PAs had fed back to management a desire for voluntary redundancy so they could acquire jobs closer to home, or roles which enabled them to work from home, or because their priorities had changed during the pandemic. 

Linklaters declined to specify the incentives being offered, but said they were determined on a case-by-case basis and by length of service.

With many firms likely to permit some degree of permanent homeworking now the infrastructure is in place and it has proven popular and viable, expect plenty more to shed business services staff in the coming months.

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Sceptical 19 March 21 08:50

This will work in the short term but the clients will find this increases cost, a lot. After all a PA has a lower cost than the fee earner. Long shot: this is the thin edge  in the task of offshoring PA work.

Anonymous 19 March 21 09:09

You get Indian or South African graduates working for a pittance as VAs instead - simples.

Anonymous 19 March 21 10:16

Complex document work will be offshored.

Diary management and minor document work will be left for lawyers to do for themselves.

Local PA support will be a luxury for partners, consultants and earners of large fees.

Anonymous 19 March 21 10:26

@08:50
You're right about the increase of costs for the client but that is probably the idea.
I have a couple of friends at American firms and they don't have a secretary, they just do everything themselves and charge £££ for printing...

Actual utility of support staff? 19 March 21 10:36

To what extent is this simply a reflection of the inevitably diminishing utility of certain categories of support staff? 
 

I remember reading articles in the 1990s about how lawyers would need to learn to type their own documents, because a vestigial element of dinosaurs remained in the profession who insisted on using secretaries. Of course, lawyers coming into the profession for decades now are au fait with computers. That removed a huge % of the secretarial task requirement. Likewise, how many other tasks done by support staff can be similarly be automated through more powerful and better-designed software? (Or, for specific surge tasks which can’t be automated, very cheap paralegals can be contracted on demand from temping agencies.)
 

Linklaters has arrays of secretaries sitting in the central islands outside of our offices, and I can’t help but feel that they are overwhelmingly there because of inertia (“We’ve always done things this way”). When we move to our new offices, particularly in light of the expected post-Covid increase in WFH, surely we should expect - and welcome - a vastly (ie c80-90%) reduction in support staff? (The vastly greater support costs in Magic Circle firms is one of the major reasons why we are paid less than our counterpart in US firms.)

Anonymous 19 March 21 12:19

I can't remember when the legal secretarial hub managed my diary, or did any document management work themselves (rather than immediately forwarding it to our central document management hub who of course totally screw it up).

It's an ever decreasing circle isn't it? Secretaries get culled, so those left do less for the fee earners, who increasingly don't see why they need access to a secretary because they do it all themselves or it goes to a hub, so the secretaries get culled again, so those left do even less for the fee earners, who... 

Anon 19 March 21 12:35

@Actual utility of support staff, I agree that needs have changed and there is less need for certain support roles. However, reducing these roles will only provide a modest uplift for lawyers and will not materially close the gap to US law firm salaries if indeed partners chose to pass on the uplift rather than trouser the gain. 

 

Ummm 19 March 21 13:06

So some of them are taking voluntary redundancy to look for "...roles which enabled them to work from home..." - so they will be paid by another company to provide secretarial / business support services from home, but no way Jose at Links!

Seems silly. 

[Appreciate this doesn't cover all the voluntary redundancies]

Anon 19 March 21 13:10

@Anon 19 March 21 12:19

Spot on the decreasing circle. You also need to factor that since firms are sending clear signals that these jobs are not valued and about to be gone forever as consequence of "progress", the new entrants are likely to be less enthusiastic at the job than the older secretaries who can look forward to retirement.

@Actual utility of support staff

That is the logical consequence of the "secretarial hub". The full "utility" of a secretary is only unlocked when she/he stays in a team long enough and has sufficient time to get to know how the organisation works and the individual fee earners' preferences. This helps to build trust, skills and cooperative behaviour which in turn lead to fee-earners delegating more meaningful and "useful" work to their secretary. The only reason you will be left without a personal secretary is because your employer can pressure you to do their work for no additional consideration, and because client think they shouldn't pay for their time - not because they have no "utility". There are other staff that have little utility and quite a few of them have better salaries and working conditions than the secretaries (and, needless to say, titles as grand as their vacuity).

Rooting for the admin staff 19 March 21 14:09

@13.10 correct re building a relationship and trust. And this isn't only between the fee earners and secretary / PA. Many clients reach out directly to a lawyer's PA for appointments. Many PAs work on billing, BD, events, policies and new joiner policies. Additionally, paralegals will not proactively look at a partner's busy diary for clashes or tasks they can take off their hands. The archaic secretarial role is nearly redundant. But PAs and executive support are very much needed and indeed valuable.

Support jobs will never be eradicated but they will look different to how we know them. 

Former PA 19 March 21 14:11

“.....some PAs had fed back to management a desire for voluntary redundancy so they could acquire jobs closer to home, or roles which enabled them to work from home...”

Sounds to me like Linklater’s touted policy regarding WFH is, in reality, not extended to or very limited for secretaries...big shocker.....

 

Anon 19 March 21 15:27

Looking forward to all those Linklater's Associates being told that as they live in the provinces and now do admin, their salaries are being cut by 30%.

Fake Partner 19 March 21 16:48

We have an army of secretaries at my firm in the US because it's run by a 70 year old dinosaur who is still in the 1980's (he prints every single email). I have never used my secretary for anything apart from expenses. He could fire 80% of the secretaries and we would be fine. Instead we will continue to fritter hundreds of thousands of dollars a year on secretaries that 90% of the attorneys hardly use. This was true before Covid-19 began. There's even less use for them now. We have 10, we could get by with 2. 

Technology 19 March 21 17:02

One of the major reasons for a secretary not being as necessary any more is the development of technology. Unfortunately that's not as good a story as wealthy partners wanting fee earners to do the work at higher rates so it makes more money for the firm. By way of example, if you need a taxi, will you ask your secretary to call up a cab company or will you just get an uber using your phone? If you need to arrange a conference call will you ask your secretary to arrange it or will you just circulate a Teams link with the click of your mouse? I recall the last time I needed a flight booked, actively trying to involve my secretary and getting frustrated because the introduction of a middle man needlessly complicated a 5 minute job.

In my five years of qualification I have barely ever used the secretaries available to me despite always having access to one. I struggle to think what these admin tasks are that don't require some legal or matter knowledge (trainee/paralegal tasks) that are getting people bogged down in additional time.

Anonymous 20 March 21 00:05

"Looking forward to all those Linklater's Associates being told that as they live in the provinces and now do admin, their salaries are being cut by 30%."

In a big city like London, you could live cheap as chips out near say West Ham FC way, and shop in a cut price food store; or you could pays 000s a week rent in W1 and buy your nosh in delis and eat out in wallet-busting places.  

Depending on your choices, you could easily + or - your cost of living by 3 or 400 per cent simply by moving a few postcodes.  

If an employer can cut your wages if you move from London to, say, Devon; then, logically, they could do the same if you moved from Lancaster Gate to Hackney.

Why not?

The principle - salary cuts if you live in a cheap area - works just as well inside London as it does between London and other locations outside London.  It's the same principle. 

The bitter office addicts who resent the thought of colleagues earning London salaries in Wolverhampton should be careful what they wish for.  

Anon 20 March 21 09:38

It’s the slippery slope unfortunately. Death of the role by a thousand cuts. I’m a 6-10pqe lawyer at an international firm.

In the ‘olden days’ not that long ago, I could say to my PA “please bill X client £10k”. And the rest would just sort of happen. I suppose I thought the billing fairy would sort it. Actually, my PA:

i) knew or would find the file number

ii) knew or would find out billing requirements for the client - do they need a Purchase Order number, she might well know the relevant client billing contact at the client & could help between them to chase down POs

iii) sort out the narrative and proof read time entries if they accompany the bill (some clients demand this others don’t)

iv) obtain Partner authorisation and any additional authorisation for large write offs

v) get the bill processed, dispatched by the billing team, and put a paper copy on the file(!) and save to the document management system a soft copy

vi) update any client reporting

vii) assist credit control with queries

If I had training that day, any relevant materials would appear before the session. If I had a meeting somewhere coming up, I’d be asked about train tickets. Post would be sorted. If I sent something special delivery, the track & trace would be in my inbox & saved to the DMS. When on holiday, all my emails would have been proactively saved to the document management system for my return.

Now, we have a ‘workflow management tool’ - so yes I can still get a bill but I have to fill in file number, po number, narrative, to be honest I may as well do the whole thing myself. Not my PA’s fault at all. She now works for 9 fee earners including 2 Partners.

My PA works 4 days a week. In the olden days a ‘float’ PA would cover. Now, I just have to put my request into the system and someone in any UK office will pick up. Or a more junior grade person might. Great in theory but I have to spell out not only ‘please post’ but what methods (read the bloody letter it says it at the top), if I want it scanning to the system I have to say, if I want the special delivery tracking I need to say, and so on. It’s got to a point where I rely less & less because , especially where jobs get split between PA and PA support, things tend to get lost. I’ve seen post go out with handwritten address labels, presumably because the PA support staff don’t know how to do mail labels (or maybe I need to log that request separately). Same with spine labels for bundles. In the olden days all of this would be sorted.

I really rate the PAs in my department but there aren’t enough of them & they’re actively discouraged from being helpful.

I remember them piloting this years ago & saying then that my PA should be sure to log every single task, however minimal, to the system.

where i work 20 March 21 11:56

where i work PAs do more than menial tasks - they prepare client matter updates (exporting WIP spreadsheets so the fee earners only need to fill in the comments section), they deal with accounts to sort billing, they do court deadline reminders of which there are many, they type out dictations and letters from partners on the go. 

It’s a PA salary costs the firm 200 quid a day, that is just over half an hour of associate chargeable time and 20 minutes a partner chargeable time. Working off six minute units, a PA only needs to do between four and six of these tasks in order for the firm to break even

Ex-Links 21 March 21 21:09

Having worked at Linklaters, I found the secretaries/PAs to be far more useful than most trainees. I would suggest looking at reducing the number of the latter instead if the partners are looking for some extra $$$.

anonymous-anonymous 22 March 21 07:10

The LSA/PA role is changing because the profession is changing. The truth is most lawyers these days can do most "admin" things themselves and we have software that automates most of an LSA's tasks. I'm not saying it is right or wrong, it's just the way it is.

I'm in-house now but at my old shop we had LSA's who each worked for between 6-15 fee earners of various levels. What you asked them to do for you depended on you, but I tended to only ask for assistance with things like file opening, the monthly billing run and chasing outstanding invoices. Most at my level did the same but older partners seemed to lean on them a bit more (for typing, expenses etc.).

Former Linklaters PA 22 March 21 09:30

No surprise at all but it will come to a rough awakening when partners find out that invoices don't generate themselves and travel actually has to be booked.

Glad to have left that shit show years ago.

Disgrunted and overqualified PA 24 March 21 10:49

As a legal PA I am pleased to confirm that I am completely expendable to my firm.  Even more so are the vast majority of my PA colleagues.   If only I worked at Links...  The only reason I continue to work as a legal PA is i earn more money being frustrated by my job and the thickos I work for than I would doing anything actually worthwhile.

The only thing my firm uses PAs for is the tasks lawyers deem beneath them, wait sorry, "haven't got time for".  Like pressing a print button. Or doing a google search.  If the firm ever actually upgrades its compliance and billing software and teaches the lawyers how to use them efficiently,  (and how to wipe their own bottoms), the PAs are screwed.  But lol, that will never happen.

 

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