Shearman and Sterling is offering mega-sabbaticals in its fight against coronavirus, RollOnFriday understands.

The US firm has presented staff with a "voluntary leave program", where lawyers can take a minimum of three months and a maximum of six months off work.

Any staff who take the firm up on its offer will be paid a third of their annual salary, said a source, "topped up to 40% if you engage in pro bono during that time". 

They can still go out once a day (that's 180 mini-holidays)...

The firm declined to comment, but the insider was sceptical.  "It would be exceptionally surprising if anyone volunteers for this at all", they said.


...or do up the living room for a relaxing beach break.

But given the sizeable wedge earned by Shearman lawyers, it would seem more surprising if there were no takers for six months off work on 33% pay. They will just need no school fees, a small mortgage and a vast library of box sets.

Tip Off ROF


Anon 24 April 20 08:54

Has RoF been able to confirm how many firms are letting go people on probation? 

There are many stories of firms using this time to have a "it's not working out" conversation and binning staff to avoid it being classed as a redundancy situation.

Needs reminding 24 April 20 08:55

What about the number of US firms in London laying off their lawyers and support staff by stealth? Are these going to be named and shamed too?

MT 24 April 20 10:00

Lovely idea on paper, but yeah good luck making yourself relevant at the firm again after you're back. Career suicide.

Parsnip 24 April 20 10:08

agreeing a 6 month sabbatical on 30 or 40% pay does not mean that if you were made redundant or let go at the end of the period that you would be treated as a worker only earning 30 or 40% of what you are on now. This is a pretty good sounding scheme - particularly for those who are struggling for child care. If you are not relevant to the firm after 6 months expect your notice which presumably at least 3 months at full pay but probably a bit more as otherwise that would probably be unfair. If this isn't all over within a year, then we all have bigger problems. 

Let's try not to be too quick to jump on the firms that are giving people choices 

Anonymous 24 April 20 10:27

Anon 24 April 20 08:54 Could you stop posting that same comment, it's been weeks now and no one is biting.

Anon 24 April 20 10:51

Anonymous 24 April 20 @ 10:27 - it was not posted by myself first but given that there are many other people in the same situation who have been screwed over by their firm, it deserves to be repeated again and again. I did copy and paste the same language used by the first person that posted it though! But it is NOT the same person and if you looked around you’d realise others have said similar things to say.

Anonymous 24 April 20 11:17

If I worked there I would take them up on this offer right away in order to go on a very long hike. But then again I'm young and don't have kids or a mortgage.

It would be incredibly unfair if they followed this measure up by laying off associates who voluntary helped them cut costs. If Shearman lawyers are concerned about that, they probably had bigger problems anyway...

Ah you're back, Jenkins. Step into my office ... 24 April 20 12:52

Thinking back to the last recession, I feel here will also be the inevitable "Remember those tough nights/weekends we worked during Covid in 2020? Oh you don't, because you weren't there."

May breed resentment. Not just at Shearman's. A 'them and us'. Bad for teams and therefore the business.



Anon 24 April 20 13:14

On the point about probation period dismissals, how is this a way to avoid redundancy?  By definition if you’re on probation you don’t have redundancy  rights.   Unless you’re on a two year plus probation period which seems unlikely!

Anon 24 April 20 13:26

@ Anonymous 24 April 20, 13:14

Firms with employees on probation are able to put staff on furlough but are instead choosing to dismiss them in the same way they are getting rid of others by means of stealth layoffs - to avoid bad press and give false impressions to the market.

The stealth layoffs and probation comments on the discussion boards are all related and the word “redundancy” is just being used loosely here to convey the message that the least costly and attention raising option is being chosen by firms that should know better.



Parsnip 24 April 20 13:39

Probation tends also to have shorter contractual notice than post-probation so regardless of statutory rights, you probably are on 1 month or 1 week rather than 3 months which is the norm post probation. 

Anons 24 April 20 23:14

@ Parsnip - to state the obvious: which also means that by laying off someone on probation they also save more money as a result of a shorter notice period as opposed to a “permanent” employee.

The Farting Gnome 25 April 20 07:37

It's not easy to come back after a 6 month lay off doing something completely different.  Ask anyone who has been on maternity leave.

Having said that, this could be an opportunity for someone who has a hankering to start their own business doing something outside of the law.

Time for Tefl 26 April 20 15:00

Shearmans is a good firm but current noises from the govt suggest that the UK is still intending to leave the EU at the end of the year.  There's no time for even a bare bones deal to be signed so we will be reduced to trading with our biggest trading partner on a third country basis.  This is going to affect everything, including City law, either directly or indirectly.

I wonder what incentive they will have to bring people back after 6 months off if the work isn't there.

Other US firms should follow This example 26 April 20 16:48

Other top US firms should follow Shearman’s example instead of resorting to stealth layoffs!!!!!!!!! Think twice about criticising Shearman when other top US firms are binning people at the blink of an eyelid. at least Shearman is giving people the option (albeit not the best one), it is far better than being laid off and being blamed for “losing your job”!!!!

all washed up 30 April 20 14:11

Even with a family you should be able to live on 50% of your full pay, especially on the amounts that these lawyers make. You'd pay a lot less tax as well. So not such a big gap to bridge to have some time off.

All washed down 01 May 20 08:40

@ all washed up - unless you have a mortgage to pay and kids going to private schools etc you know

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