Motivating staff while imparting bad news can be a difficult needle to thread, as Squire Patton Boggs discovered after celebrating greatness just before announcing 20% pay cuts.
Last week the London Managing Partner sent an email to staff which, according to sources, read, "Thank you for the huge effort across the office in our billings and collections push...in the words of Queen and Adam Lambert ‘You Are the Champions’”.
Three hours after praising staff for successfully maintaining profitability, the UK LLP was "whacked with a totally impersonal email about pay cuts across the board", said a source. "Conveniently they timed this right after financial year end, funny that".
A source said an email sent a month earlier from "the invisible forces" in the United States had reassured staff that because the firm was conservatively ran, it was in a good position to weather the storm, and more so than other firms. "But as soon as [the US HQ] hears other firms making pay cuts, it follows suit", said a source. "So the first email was all fart then".
A spokesperson for SPB said that was unfair, as management had warned things might change. Bosses wrote in the email, "A number of our peer firms have already announced cost reduction measures, with many more likely to do so in the weeks, if not days, to come. We of course are not immune to the difficult economic realities that compel considering such measures and will communicate our thinking as quickly and clearly as we can in this rapidly evolving medical and business environment".
"It is funny, when a multitude of other firms announced pay rises and salary increases, SPB management dutifully ignored that trend. However, as soon as it sees other smaller firms making pay cuts, it hops on the band wagon", said an aggrieved SPB lawyer.
Despite cutting associate salaries by 20%, the firm said its bonus scheme had not been compromised. It also refuted one source's claim that the reason that the bonus scheme wasn't affected was "because no one got a bonus or pay rise this year". A spokesperson told RollOnFriday, "Our associate compensation and bonus reviews take place at the end of each calendar year. The last review operated as normal with awards in line with previous years".
In a statement, SPB said, “The global pandemic has created distress for companies around the world and will continue to for some time. No one is immune from these market conditions and we announced these temporary measures, as responsible stewards of the firm, in order to assure the firm’s success and prevent job loss over the long term. The majority of our associates understand why the firm is proposing these measures”.
Meanwhile, happier sources at Clyde & Co praised their firm's lockdown comms, even though they featured zero references to Queen's original or revised line ups.
"I have been genuinely impressed (and surprised) at the Covid-19 handling so far", said one, highlighting the CEO's weekly video blogs "which, while window dressing, are helpful and well-intentioned".
"We have been told that we have seen a downward trend in instructions for some teams but a spike in certain areas of work (not surprising given the stress that the insurance industry is being put under at the moment)".
Other Clyde & Co measures follow the more optimistic of the pandemic playbooks. While the firm is delaying distributions for equity partners and deferring salary reviews until October, it has also preserved the 2019/20 bonus scheme and, at least for now, shied away from salary cuts.
It has also established an Employee Hardship Fund which, said an impressed insider, will "provide financial support (grant not loan) to those in genuine need".
The only criticism has been the difficulty in taking home hardware. "I had to smuggle my monitor, keyboard and mouse out after hours as it wasn't clear whether we would be allowed to take them", said the insider. RollOnFriday has notified the police.
As it's a bank holiday, here's more Freddie.
Clydes salary reviews delayed to October? What difference does it make? The letter always says the same thing “the firm has had a strong year and we are pleased to announce increased PEP and yet more office openings, but also we must be cautious and vigilant because of the continuing fall out from Napoleon’s escape from Elba, the Seven Years War, and the counter reformation. Therefore, pay rises will be inflationary at best this year but even then we will calculate inflation to be around 0%.”
Not sure what office/team you work in, although I've always received an above inflation pay rise each year.
Sucks to suck.
Welcome to the message board to the Clydes PR team.
Don’t think I’ve ever seen such a tone deaf email as the London office managing partner praising the toilers only hours before everyone gets a fifth of their earnings wiped off.
Bearing in mind that this is SPB and so the bar is set very low, it still looks like the MP either a) knew all along and still went for such a naff email which is beyond cynical; or b) didn’t expect the cuts to come this soon and was blindsided by Cleveland/Cincinnati/[insert random bleak US city] sending marching orders a few hours later. Which one is it?
It goes without saying that the absentee landlords in America wouldn’t let the UK LLP get away without a pay cut when they introduce one themselves.
It's not tone deaf.
The "you're wonderful but you're not good enough" paradigm is the favoured method of abusers to encourage cognitive dissonance in their victims. It makes them easier to manipulate.
Vote with your feet
Isn’t Clydes an insurance firm? I imagine they must be doing quite well. Same goes for firms who do a lot of restructuring work.
The market finds its level. People who end up at firms that don’t value them and take the p*** at a time like this in particular have to ask why they are settling for this? Sure, hard to move on right now and keeping your head down is sensible. But when the market picks up which it will eventually just get out and find a better firm because there are places where integrity and ethics have some meaning. If you’re good enough you will. These mid market MOR insurance heavy firms like Clydes, SPB, S&G, IM and the likes of Thompsons etc rely on inertia and a lack of confidence in their people, almost daring to see if they will leave by treating them increasingly with more and more contempt each year when it comes to pay and benefits and then becoming emboldened when they still stay. As has been said above vote with your feet when the time is right.
The genii is out of the bottle with regard to how the management of law firms treat their employees and, indeed, partners (especially junior ones). People have woken up to what working in a law firm really means.
Anything about BLM?
They've kinda fizzled out as the kidz have got behind Extinction Rebellion and Greta.
Well said Anon 14:46 One firm is spouting the brown stuff and promoting their culture while pretending to care. Then again when you pay for 2 at the top, it takes a lot of cultural hot air and brown nosing to fan the egos. As the Royle family would say Culture my arse
Bloody loving the Freddie Mercury clips! Thanks Jamie.
@ Carl Freud 07 May 20 11:36
They can't manipulate me mate.
I've got 4 GCSEs. I'm not silly.
I think it really sucks to have paycuts imposed whilst not cutting hours. Squeeze even last drop of work out of employees whilst they're most likely to feel financial strain, why don't ya!
Unless a law firm had virtually no income in the year or more prior to this economic downturn, paycutting and furlough are unavoidable as the partnership profits from the last quarter(s) and from ongoing/future work should be used to cover costs until work gets busier again. If those profits were distributed in their entirety, there should be a cash call.
Any firm reducing pay are a bunch of durty bustards. Cream it off in the good years sharing the minimum amount possible with the employees but as soon as the sh1t hits the fan it’s the employees taking the pain.
How about a new title for another article:
“EXCLUSIVE”: US firm that tells staff and the entire planet about how “well” it is doing, resorts to stealth layoffs
Content will include:
- we will not make any announcements to the world about this and pretend everything is normal (the firm is sooooooo busy). We will even make the world believe we’re earning more money: PR machine on full blast!!
- of course, salary increases and bonuses are still going ahead (?) we’ll just pretend it is not because of the large number of people we have binned through stealth layoffs
- we are still “recruiting” as we need to replace more senior members of the team we’ve binned with cheaper and hungrier junior members whom we can also bin before they start becoming expensive again
- we will tell recruitment agencies that we’re still looking for talent and receiving applications hoping that we can stretch the hiring process to +3 months hoping that (+ this will also make them think that everything is absoluteeeeeeely fine over here)
I'm amazed at the number of firms who have no job adverts on their websites but are happy to allow recruiters to gather CV's for them and then tell the recruiters there is a recruitment freeze on at the moment.
I heard that the 20% pay cut will be on daily hours rather than moving to a 4 day week (so haha, classic Squires, you’ll work the same hours for less money) and the 1,500 hour target remains in place.....well done Squires, you’ve outdone yourself on tightness this time....👏🏻
And I’ve heard the SPB definition of temporary = 8 months...
New sales pitch after another Q&A session with the UK managing partner:
“We’re an outstanding law firm, providing real value for money. How do we do it?
We pocket profits when times are good; we socialise all losses when times are bad.
It’s incredible. It’s the SPB partner way.”
Editorial independence? I've heard from several sources that their BLM posts are being routinely rejected. Poor form, RoF.
Hi soooo - please, do send concrete details to [email protected]
I love, love, love the implication that BLM might be too big for RoF to piss off. OH GOD NO. NOT BLM! SUCH BIG PLAYERS! HOW WILL WE AFFORD THE OFFICE CAVIAR WITHOUT THEIR SWEET ADVERTISING MONEY?"
Who is this US firm everyone is banging on about stealth layoffs etc? It's like a game of whodunnit.
Why are people moaning about BLM? Everyone knows they're [redacted by ROF]
And anuva fing...
Wash ya 'ands, ya filthy animals!
That's what's so puzzling. Is BLM being protected out of pity?
I wouldn't put Clyde's in the same boat as SPB, S&G, BLM and Thompsons...also, how are all these firms making unilateral changes to salaries?