Office shed

An exiting NRF staffer. How it might look.


Norton Rose Fulbright is making 132 roles redundant across Europe, Middle East and Asia; with 114 of the cuts in London. 

19 lawyers are included in the cull, along with 89 business services staff and 24 secretaries. While some firms have cut legal positions during the pandemic, the bulk of redundancies have been borne by business services and secretaries.

A source told RollOnFriday that NRF had assessed which roles to cut using objective scoring, and that the firm was "having a big push to cut business services" as partners were "worried that having more support staff than fee earners is not sustainable".

“We have taken the decision to restructure our business services operating model to set us up to lead and thrive in a period of change and uncertainty," said Peter Scott, NRF's Managing Partner.

"Our new operating model will help us serve our clients as effectively and efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, a number of colleagues who have made important contributions will leave us," said Scott. "We have followed a process that is as fair, robust and sensitive as possible.”

Last year, NRF responded to the pandemic by asking staff to volunteer for a 20% pay cut, with a commensurate reduction in their working hours, and replaced the summer party with Deliveroo vouchers.

Some posters on the RollOnFriday discussion board suggested that NRF's approach was "the way forward", and that other firms would soon close or downsize their central London offices and transfer work to the regions or abroad. "If there is no need for you to be in the office then your job can be advertised nationwide at 75% of the salary", said one. "Big Law could retain a small London presence for 'show' and client meetings."

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Comments

dimi_berbatov 22 January 21 09:32

Never thought I would see the day that bananaman was quoted as a news source. 

Anon 22 January 21 09:39

So we should take specialist business services jobs out of the City and given to people without the requisite experience to perform the role? Using business development professionals for example that don't have experience pitching to big City private equity firms? I've even tried to use regional recruiters in the past in an attempt to save on costs, but outside of areas like conveyancing and family some of them don't have a clue. Trusting them to source a quality securitisation lawyer while the firm loses thousands in billable fees waiting? Forget it.

They think this will boost profits and is a good long term strategy? Surprised to hear someone from NRF say something like this. 

Anon 22 January 21 09:45

Business services is now very important in terms of strategy, technology, risk / compliance - get any of these wrong and the firm will be in the proverbial.  I suspect these key roles haven’t been hit though.  

JJ 22 January 21 10:04

Well, the average London salary is higher. Since remote working works just fine, I guess it only took some people a year to decide to fire everyone and hire from Sunderland. 

Anon 22 January 21 10:05

Most global law firms today have more business staff than lawyers.  They just make sure that their lawyers are focused on the ‘lawyering’ rather than extensive administration.  NRF appears to be a law firm that has still to work out that expensive Partners/lawyers can’t do everything.  The partners and lawyers desperately need to increase their billable hours, learn how to delegate effectively and recruit the right professional experts.  (Currently, they would rather pay an expensive partner/lawyer to write the big City private equity pitch rather than recruit a very well qualified business development professional.)

Anonymous 22 January 21 10:08

I can see firms downsizing in London. I've already heard of one firm with a London HQ looking to reduce headcount there and move a lot of work out to Guildford. 

Vlad the Impaler 22 January 21 10:09

To be fair, NRF have been moving Business Services out of London for a few years now. The pandemic just means they can expedite it.

I pity anyone that has recently joined them.

Not a great place to work.

 

Anonymous 22 January 21 10:32

@Anonymous 10:08: yes, doesn't always have to be moving stuff up north. Guildford/Surrey makes sense for those wanting to downsize in the City, but still wanting access to London.

Anon 22 January 21 11:16

@anon 10:05.  BLM don't seem to have got the message that lawyers need support staff.  The amount of admin we have to do has increased dramatically over the past few years yet somehow we're still expected to log seven chargeable hours a day - no non-chargeable time allowed.

Anonymous 22 January 21 11:28

NRF were much slower than all the other big firms in investing in service centers in lower cost places. Whether in UK or overseas. You always need certain biz services functions and roles in London, but you don't need those senior people's teams to be in London too. In fact you explicitly don't want that.

Anonymous 22 January 21 11:34

@11:16 so what happens if there isn’t 7 hours of billable work to be done for a given day? 

Anon 22 January 21 11:44

@11:16  You get dragged over the coals threatened with a performance improvement plan.

SM 22 January 21 12:42

@anon 11:28 - say that to slaughters/Macs/Travers - all very successful without service centres

Informed Informer 22 January 21 12:44

@ 10:08 Do tell more, which firm?

My guess is on Dentons, they've been wielding the stealth-axe and chopping off fee earners for months now.

hmmmmm 22 January 21 13:00

Given the rationale for the redundancies was streamlining the business and maintaining a high performance culture, if long-overdue pay rises do not follow soon, expect there to be mutiny.  That said, a much nicer placer to work than many other city firms. 

Anonymous 22 January 21 15:05

@12.42 thank you for illustrating my point that a global firm with thousands of people in dozens of locations has to structure itself very differently to single-location high-end boutiques with a few hundred people. 

Botterell & Roche, spinning at 1000RPM in their graves 22 January 21 15:23

Job cuts more savage than a Wuhan wet market.

Anon 22 January 21 16:09

No they aren’t.  All those firms have business services.  You’re confusing business services with off shore call centres.   

Anonymous 22 January 21 17:55

@11:16

Still don't understand why people keep moaning about Black Lives Matter cutting support staff.

They're a global movement dedicated to tearing down structural inequality wherever it arises. They don't have time to faff about with billable hours and timesheets, and they certainly don't need to worry about axing a few Tabithas, Felicitys and Henriettas from the BD team.

If they want to axe a couple of non-revenue generating support roles in London, then I say that's a small price to pay for racial justice.

anon 24 January 21 12:52

Anon on 22/1 @ 11:16 about BLM. This story wasn't about them, but you might want to look at the 2019/20 accounts they filed on 30th Dec (when the legal press was off for Christmas). Check the profit to 31/3/20 plummeting - pre C19. Makes you wonder what 2020/21 will look like.

anon 25 January 21 14:11

@12:52 yes its interesting, a big chunk of their profit fall was a result of a write-off of bad debt. Can be almost certain that's the impact of the Thomas Cook collapse on their business. 

Stealth layoffs 25 January 21 20:50

Easy...just do what Kirkland & Ellis is doing - STEALTH LAYOFFS! That will avoid headlines like this...though Kirkland hasn’t been able to avoid them completely!

https://news.bloomberglaw.com/business-and-practice/wake-up-call-kirkland-making-stealth-layoffs-report-says

 

Anonymous 26 January 21 10:45

@12:52 - I don't care if Black Lives Matter make a profit or not.

 

What matters is that they're making a difference.

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