Morgan Lewis has bucked the trend for furloughs, pay freezes, pay cuts and redundancies and actually raised the salaries of its business services staff.
The US firm has increased almost all admin professional salaries by 2%, for cost of living, from 1 April.
The raise, which applies globally, excludes new starters and directors. While it's not millions, it stands in stark contrast to the cutbacks being brought in at other firms. "A really nice and unexpected touch at this challenging time", said a source. "Definitely a Lockdown Champion!"
That's not the cry from most insiders at the moment. Reed Smith has announced a pay cut of 15% across the board for all associates. An aggrieved source said the percentage drop equates to seniors working "for almost the same salaries as juniors who can't draft board minutes". The drop is effective from 1 May until August, sources said.
Wright Hassall is making 12 redundancies and furloughing 44 members of staff. "It has furloughed most support staff, even where the work exists," said an insider, adding that the firm was making other staff pick up that work.
“Out of a staff of 280 we have been unfortunately forced to remove a small number of positions, while other staff members have been furloughed in accordance with the Government’s Coronavirus Jobs Retention Scheme" said the firm's managing partner, Sarah Perry.
Perry added that the firm's management team had been "massively impressed" by the response of staff to adapt their working and personal practices to help the firm "operate successfully in what is a dreadful time for the economy and the country as a whole.”
Gowling WLG is asking some staff to take unpaid leave, RollOnFriday understands. The firm is taking a number of other measures in response to the pandemic, including furloughing some staff and asking others to work reduced hours for reduced pay, an insider said. But it will be particularly tough on those staff on unpaid leave, especially knowing that their furloughed colleagues are at least getting paid.
The measures by Gowling WLG are set to be in place until the end of October this year. Each team was told that they "needed to reduce salary costs by 20%", claimed the source.
Gowling WLG did not respond to a request for comment.
How Jack thought unpaid leave would look:
How it actually looked:
Goodman Derrick is cutting its staff pay by up to 25%. “Like other firms who rely on a large amount of transactional activity, we have already experienced a significant drop off in the market and expect this to continue for some time," the firm's senior partner Edward Hoare told RollOnFriday. Management's key concern was to "save as many jobs as possible", said Hoare and "a short term voluntary pay reduction across the whole firm would be the most effective way to do this."
The London-headquartered firm cut partner pay by 25% and then "proposed a voluntary scheme to all staff" which had resulted in "a 25% reduction in pay for those earning more than £40,000 and 15% for those earning below that amount." The reduction is set to be for the next three months but subject to a monthly review. "There was almost unanimous acceptance within just a few days,” Hoare said.
But some other firms bringing in pay cuts are allowing staff to work fewer corresponding hours. 90% of eligible staff at Norton Rose Fulbright have agreed to the firm's Flex scheme for their salary to be cut by 20% for the next year, in return for a commensurate reduction in their working hours. So, those signing up will be reduced to a four-day working week. "Our people have come together during what is a challenging time, to support their colleagues and the firm," said EMEA managing partner Peter Scott.
NRF proposed the Flex scheme to staff earlier this month, having previously adopted the policy in 2009 as a response to the financial crisis. The scheme will be effective from April in the firm's Europe, Middle East and Asia offices.
Ashurst is also planning to bring in a similar measure, as it has asked staff to agree to a pay cut by 20% for an equivalent reduction in working hours, for the months of May to July. The firm is also reducing partner drawings by 20% for the next six months. The City firm will defer salary reviews until November, and 50% of staff bonuses will also be held back until then.
"We are looking ahead in a responsible way", said Ashurst's Global Managing Partner Paul Jenkins, adding that given the global economic slowdown "we may see less activity in the markets in which we operate".
With many legal staff feeling the heat, it's not just draconian measures that are causing anxiety. Allen & Overy took the reasonable-sounding step of telling staff they could not claim free evening meals while working from home. It was too much for one lawyer in Singapore who, forced to confront their oven for the first time, described the move as a "sucker punch".