Amstrad

"No laptop, but we'll send you one of these in the post."


Eight firms were as popular as Matt Hancock with their Covid response, scoring 48% and under.

At Womble Bond Dickinson (48%) a partner said: "We have taken over £2million in furlough money which has gone straight into the pockets of partners. However, we have also had significant redundancies. Wasn't this what the furlough money was meant to avoid? We have lost so many people and I don't feel very comfortable with the board's actions."

Another lawyer agreed that the firm had "used the money" from furlough "to boost falling profits rather than retain staff."

A senior lawyer said the firm had made a "generous waive of stealth redundancies and a two year pay freeze while the partners have enriched themselves at taxpayer expense." He added "simultaneously to all this, the non-furloughed fee earners have been flogged while continually reminded how lucky they are to still have jobs." 

"Management has treated some good people very badly," said a senior lawyer and "totally missed the Covid message of people matter!" A junior lawyer noted that "the board seem to have gone into hiding...and taken isolation to a new level."

A junior lawyer complained: "the firm was so slow to offer adequate equipment to work from home, I bought my own." 
 

FOTY Chart Covid


At Slater & Gordon (45%) a partner said, "the problem is that the workload has increased unmanageably because of resignations and sackings so everyone is very unhappy."

Another member of staff said the firm had "used Covid as another excuse to make more people redundant" with "lots of compromise agreements being agreed."

"The firm was already making preparations for working from home and closing offices regardless of the pandemic," said a lawyer. "So, rather than looking like a villain for closing offices they are pretending this is some great response to a pandemic. Or it could be some big coincidence that all the offices leases were ending..."

A senior lawyer at Slaughter and May (44%) said: "there was no working from home budget, no support given. Just the occasional email saying we're all in it together." 

"The 'Isn't Covid awful?' emails only go so far," agreed a junior lawyer. "Unlike other firms, there has been no reasonable adjustment or provision for WFH."

"Quite unbelievably, the firm hasn't provided people with any home working kit unless there's a Health and Safety need," said a junior lawyer. "Another secretary in my group hasn't even been provided with a work computer and hers is on its last legs."

Another junior lawyer criticised the firm for "refusing to give IT equipment or desks for a very long time."

At Squire Patton Boggs (41%) a lawyer said "the firm rushed to reduce salaries by 20% within five weeks of lockdown, despite having had two record years previously." He added the salary reduction "went on for five months despite revenues being the same as last year."

A junior lawyer agreed that the firm's pay cut was "in a particularly cheap manner".  Another lawyer agreed, "the pay cut was brutal. I know a number of colleagues who left the firm precisely for this reason. It wasn't fair and full pay was re-instated too late in my opinion."

Knights scored 40%.

A junior solicitor at Watson Farley Williams (38%) said that the firm did not offer financial support "to improve home working situations." He said "a small financial gesture or a policy whereby we might be able to buy a desk or chair or monitor would have been welcome and would have improved morale."  And it  "would have been especially helpful for trainees and associates who generally aren't living in accommodation which affords them the luxury of their own home office."

The firm was also criticised by another junior lawyer for "not providing staff with additional tech to WFH." And also "encouraging staff to come in to the office in September - when anyone with foresight could see a second wave and lockdown coming."

Another member of staff agreed that the firm had "talked about supporting agile working", but then "started forcing people back into the office."

A Business Services member of staff said Watson Farley Williams was "one of the first firms to furlough staff, claim government money" but then one of "the first to make redundancies without repaying the money which was meant to protect jobs."

At Dentons (36%) a senior lawyer said that staff "were sold a part-time working proposal (80% of hours and 20% pay cut for 6 months) on assertions that this was necessary to account for lower work levels and would prevent redundancies."  But "most of us ended up working 100% or more of our hours, translating into a pure salary cut. Management still hit their budgets. Distributions for Partners were reinstated. We didn't get our salary cuts back." 

"I'm still using my own (not great) laptop!" said a trainee. "The rollout of laptops is expected to take another 7 months...from now. I've had no financial support to set myself up at home."

Debevoise & Plimpton came last with 34%. "The pandemic has been another stick to beat us with over chargeable hours and the need to go above and beyond for the gangsters we generally represent," said a disgruntled lawyer. 

"They couldn't run an orgy in a brothel," another said, in summary of management's approach. 

Tip Off ROF

Comments

Disgusted 26 February 21 08:25

I hope those grubby firms which cut pay see their people leave.  Loyal staff deserve better and they will all hopefully move on to somewhere less grubby.  

Avoid any firm consistently scoring badly.  Their reputations precede them and they are at the bottom of the table with good reason.  
 

Unhappy bunnies 26 February 21 08:32

It looks like there are a lot of unhappy bunnies out there who will be scouring the job market looking for a way out.  The reward for managerial incompetence and greed is the loss of talent and big fat recruitment fees spent trying to replace the people who leave.  Serves you right.  

Paper cuts 26 February 21 09:15

Hope this gets widely publicised so that the firms who did well on this can profit at the expense of the useless dinosaurs like the above-mentioned.

Just as it takes a crisis to let you know who your real friends are, so too did covid reveal firms with forward-thinking management and those still ran by clowns.  

  

Anon 26 February 21 09:28

It does seem ridiculous (not unique to law) that firms get huge taxpayer bailouts whilst partners trouser millions. 

Anon 26 February 21 09:47

I tried to run an orgy in a brothel once. It was surprisingly difficult. Variable pricing causes havoc. They should really go with a rate card for these things... 

DentonsAgain.... 26 February 21 09:52

Another public drubbing for Dentons. This is now a weekly humiliation for the firm but very much the management's own doing. 

The firm's covid response was shameful forcing people to take a 20% paycut and then immediately announce redundancies in their real estate, construction and energy teams plus business support amongst other areas. The pandemic has exposed the firm's mismanagement, corporate greed and utter lack of transparency. 

Morale for fee earners and staff is at an all time low and Dentons have the nerve to offer minor salary increases (effectively just repaying the covid cuts over a few years) whilst slashing salaries by 35% in many teams. This is an example of how not to run a business. 

Anon 26 February 21 09:54

Slaughters is indeed in the dark ages still.   As long as the partners are all ok, then as an associate you’re regarded as just lucky to be allowed in the firm for a few years before in almost all cases you’re binned.   Some departments have WFH allowed, sometimes for some people, but in others you are hugely discouraged and there is at the top still a presenteeism culture and lack of trust in lawyers to work from home.   The technology is poor for a firm of this calibre and far behind other firms.  Desktop phones are still widely used in the office FFS.  I mean, in this day and age, who actually still uses those things?!!  Modern progressive firms use Skype, zoom, etc and have done for years.  It could have easily afforded to allow people a WFH budget, as far less profitable firms did,  but it didn’t, presumably to save money for the hard up partners and to limit  a change in culture where, if set up to do it, people could more easily justify a two or three days at home week in the future post covid.   

Anonymous 26 February 21 11:00

Slaughters was very lucky that Covid didn't hit a couple of years earlier, because we only upgraded to laptops incredibly recently. The firm is so backwards with IT it's utterly ridiculous.

You're billed at £700+ per hour but when it comes to providing you with the kit you need to generate those fees, the firm is worse than Scrooge. The result?

Laptops which constantly crash and are unable to open Teams and Word at the same time without freezing and wheezing as if they were having a full-blown asthma attack. If that wasn't enough, the laptops have a known defect whereby the battery pack is likely to expand and "pop" the case of the laptop when it gets too hot, which then requires a replacement of the battery (and by too hot, I mean that if it's 25 degrees outside you are screwed).

Not content with this hardware disaster, the firm then decided to roll out a new document management system during the pandemic, causing utter pandemonium. There were so many bugs that probably half the firm was locked out of the system for days at a time, having to resort to using local copies of documents and working on phones, and even now a year later some people still have these issues. 

And to add insult to injury, the firm initially refused to permit people to take screens and keyboards home, only to relent once the sensible staff just decided to walk out of the building with the kit anyways and give two fingers to the firm.

And no hope for a desk or chair unless you have a H&S need first, and even then you don't get a say in respect of which chair or desk they supply.

You could not mismanage this worse, yet here we all are plodding on because we are so used to this chronic failure on the IT front we don't even register it any more. And if you spend 5 hours opening a document, the firm will bill for that so no loss for the partners!

lol 26 February 21 11:16

@ 11:00 - that is disgraceful.  For a firm that is known to have exceptionally high standards, it must be seriously difficult (if not impossible) for Slaughters' lawyers to provide anywhere close to the level of service that clients expect.  That would surely translate into fewer instructions in the future.

Anonymous 26 February 21 11:32

Slaughters really really ballsed this up. Not only was it mean to not give people the kit they required or a grant, it hit productivity. Working all day on a small laptop screen unless you ponied up for a screen yourself, while making an obscene amount of money for the partners just shows the utter contempt they have for their people.
 

I remember it being a source of genuine embarrassment at the time - friends working at small startups operating on a shoestring had been provided with everything, while I at one of the most prestigious firms in the country was propping my laptop up on books! 

Anon 26 February 21 11:53

I work for a well known US firm.  Got a large screen delivered with extra headset by courier the next day after I asked for it, sent halfway across the country.  All at the firm’s cost.   Plus there is a decent budget to get office equipment / chair etc.     

Anon 26 February 21 12:33

Why would anyone downvote them above comment about equipment being couriered?! 
 

 

Anonymous 26 February 21 12:39

How the buggery f*ck is Shoos at 91%? The firm did literally nothing except brag about how its agile arrangements meant that people could work from home - ignoring the fact that it was non-standard Cisco video calling tech and the SAP accounts system which literally no other law firm uses.

School's Still Out 26 February 21 12:50

I work for the London office of a very large US law firm and there was a similarly poor response: not providing everyone with laptops and instead forcing us to rely on Citrix (although laptops did gradually trickle out to us if we decided to push for one and seek approval from our team heads) and a complete lack of any other IT equipment or WFH budget being provided. 

Essentially, the firm pushed the cost of being able to work remotely and maintain a good service to our clients onto its staff.  Aside from the cheapness, it just made working for a large law firm even more frustrating than it usually is.

The firm also took advantage of being able to furlough some staff, something which I'm fairly sure was not within the spirit of the scheme although obviously entirely legal (and therefore apparently justifiable to the partners although the managing partner told us not to mention it to people outside the firm).

Finally, there seem to have been a number of stealth pay cuts (although impacted colleagues are obviously unwilling to reveal if they've been on the receiving end of this) despite firm's global leadership proudly trumpeting at every opportunity (including in interviews with various media organisations) that no-one at the firm has had to take a pay cut.  They are obviously relying on the firm's black box compensation structure to keep this under wraps - news flash to them, people do actually discuss salaries and bonuses! 

There's no doubt that small things like these helped the firm with its recently announced global record revenues and record profits.  Well done us!

Anon 26 February 21 13:06

For those criticising Slaughters, I think you need to remember who brings in the business? Why do top companies instruct the firm? It’s certainly not because of the associates who are ten a penny. 

@School's Still Out 26 February 21 12:50 26 February 21 13:28

This comment has Jones Day written all over it. I would know: I work there.

Anon 26 February 21 13:33

I'm astounded that BLM got 70%.  They only shut the offices after Boris' announcement .to stay at home.  They were completely unprepared to the point where when we had remote training on remote working we had to point out that we can't access emails remotely.  They then realised that they didn't have enough RDS capacity so those not lucky enough to have it already couldn't work for several days.  We're now stuck with a shoddy system that crashes every five minutes that IT constantly try to blame on tour home internet connections.

It makes me laugh so hard when all the communications from upper management constantly say how well remote working is going when everyone knows that if it weren't for the pandemic, there's not a snowball's chance in hell that working from home would be allowed for the underlings.

Anon 26 February 21 13:59

@Anon 13.33

 

I was bollocked for internet problems at home when the problem was a work based one too. I was told I would have to go into the office despite being in a support bubble with a very vulnerable person.  I resigned. The firm is now insolvent ( not because of my resignation but it was obvious what would happen ). High Street firm that thinks it is a corporate player . Hello to the management team if you are reading this 

to Slaughters associates 26 February 21 14:11

Please look at comment @13.06 and then call your favourite recruiter or just answer the phone when they call. 

There are lots of positions available and so many other firms would love to have you. Start having those conversations and pick where you want to go. It's time for you to cash in the fact you were at Slaughters. 

 

🐐 26 February 21 14:30

How hard is it to move from a 💩 firm to a 😇 firm? 
 

Will the 😇 firm presume you’re part of the problem? 

Anonymous 26 February 21 14:57

@13.06

Then why does Slaughters throw hundreds of thousands of pounds at university law societies trying to attract the best students? Seemingly for fun, according to you. 

CancelloCulture 26 February 21 15:08

My firm is currently averaging about 1 resignation a week since November, largely due to many of the factors outlined above.

Senior associate and junior partner ranks across various teams are being emptied out - continuing a trend that started a couple of years ago, but which paused last year for obvious reasons.

Unless you're in one of the warring factio... sorry, 'teams' currently in personal favour with the top man globally (although it's hard to keep up with the necessary London Kremlinology), it's hard to see yourself as having any real prospects at the firm, even if there's a clear business case for your role

Anon 26 February 21 16:25

‘I hope those grubby firms which cut pay see their people leave.’

 

certainly seems to be going that way at Dentons in Scotland. Every other day there’s a resignation. 

Anonymous 26 February 21 16:48

It’s good that firms are being called out for using taxpayer money to pay out partner profits. As mentioned earlier it’s not only law firms that have made dubious use of taxpayer funds though this doesn’t make it any less disappointing to see. The board at Wombles and any other firms that have lined their pockets with money from the furlough scheme should be ashamed of themselves (especially if they did so while making staff redundancies).  

Anonymous 26 February 21 18:17

All the businesses that have claimed furlough money is publicly available information. I am hoping a legal journalist (maybe a project for ROF?) will in due course investigate the annual accounts filed by Top 200 law firms and 'name and shame' all those firms that have made profits during the pandemic while busy claiming large sums from HMG through a taxpayer-funded scheme. The furlough scheme was designed for employees who physically could not work during the lockdowns (e.g. in the retail and leisure sectors) not for lawyers who have just not been busy enough due to a pandemic-related drop in workflow. There are very few, if any, law firms whose lawyers physically cannot work from home. The fact that so many have seemingly abused the furlough scheme is an absolute scandal. 

Anonymous 26 February 21 20:47

@18.17 “The furlough scheme was designed for employees who physically could not work during the lockdowns (e.g. in the retail and leisure sectors) not for lawyers who have just not been busy enough due to a pandemic-related drop in workflow.”

What are you basing that on?

The latest employer guidance states that employees can be furloughed if you “cannot maintain your workforce because your operations have been affected by coronavirus”.

I can’t see that that’s limited to employees who physically could not work. You could say that a drop in profitability does not mean you should be laying people off, but that’s a different argument and not really anything which anyone can dictate to law firm management.  

Anon 26 February 21 22:26

If law firms making millions should feel no shame in taking furlough cash then why are so many either paying it back or keeping it quiet?

Anonymous 27 February 21 07:50

Anon 20.47

The point's been made elsewhere that while it's entirely legal for these law firms to be claiming furlough cash, no doubt most right-thinking people would agree it's not at all within the spirit of the scheme. 

Anonymous 27 February 21 08:07

Guessing Anon 20.47 is a managing partner, unfamiliar with ethics, trying to justify why they've (ab)used the furlough scheme to boost profits over the past 12 months.

Anon 27 February 21 17:27

I was on furlough at at one of these firms and came back to a 20% pay cut for 3 months. Yet I’ve never been busier. Joke 

Anonymous 27 February 21 17:58

@08.07

Not really, it’s simply that the furlough scheme seems to me to be to stop people being laid off en masse, and the question therefore is whether or not the business would otherwise have laid the employees off. The fact a profit may have been turned in either scenario is neither here nor there, because employers don’t only lay off employees when there’s an existential threat to the company. They do so when profits are under threat. 

🎷 27 February 21 21:30

Is it doubly 💩 for a law firm to be on the government’s legal panel whilst claiming furlough & laying people off? 

Realist 27 February 21 23:44

No firm made a penny off of furlough money. All furlough money goes to staff who are NOT WORKING!!!  Profits may have been made elsewhere, but furlough money is not and cannot be a profit centre. Doh. 

Anonymous 01 March 21 09:11

My Firm cut our salaries to 80%, made people pay for their own equipment (including litigation staff having to buy their own printers) and made redundancies. We got 50% of the 20% they deducted from our salaries repaid (they made a big thing of how grateful we should be) having apparently had a number of the Firm's best ever months.

Then as staff moved out of London to save money, one partner commented there was an argument they should not get a London salary (laughable as salaries are dwarfed by others including outside London).

They only dropped our targets to 80% (ie to match our salary) for a part then increased them to 100% if your team was doing well "as 100% needs to be hit in order for us all to get back up to 100%". But, wait... the target reduction appears not to have reduced the targets other than fees received. 

Partners disappeared from view, citing childcare problems (others managed), making announcements that the period had enabled them to address matters which should have been previously (having just got rid of the litigation, BD, and HR teams... yes, the non EPs thought that pretty ill timed) and now there appear to be pay freezes.

Would love to see the accounts. They paid awfully before let alone now. Hoping there is such a thing as karma for these people.

Also hoping some of the staff have the balls to leave: sadly a lot now lack confidence in their own ability or listen to the EP nonsense about how other firms that pay more demand more hours (not true if only want £20k more as an NQ) and the people at this circus are what make it. True the people do to an extent, however the sociopath partners will always counter that). The EPs may still stand at the end of this but there will hopefully be a mass exodus (which would be great also as the juniors may finally be treated as they should, elsewhere).

A masterclass of sorts, at least.

Anonymous 02 March 21 07:44

@0911... I wish I could but I've been so outspoken and likely be identifiable. I think the terms of employment allow them to execute me too: that would be more enforceable than their laughable restrictive covenants! 

anon 02 March 21 12:20

WFW did put on record that no one had to go back to the office unless they were willing to.  However, in the next breath we were put under pressure to go back.  One partner in particular very much pressured people to go back and kept telling us how wonderful it was and how travel was really safe etc.  in September.  When it was obvious to anyone who actually paid attention that the situation was about to become very dire indeed.  

The truth is we have excellent ability to work from home and the tech is available, some people just find it less convenient.  Which is fine, but peoples lives should not be treated as less important than your personal convenience and how you prefer to do your job.

 

Realist 02 March 21 16:54

If 100% of staff were on furlough how much money would a firm make? Zero. Exactly folks. Furlough money is NOT profit. You aren’t thinking this through. Those who made the smarmy comments aren’t running their own business, clearly. 

Realist 03 March 21 13:27

Blimey. This is harder than I thought. So many people do not run businesses, clearly. 

Anonymous 04 March 21 06:26

Bill runs his own company paying his wife £800 pm.  Due to the global pandemic, Bill puts his wife on furlough receiving £9,600 from the Government during the year she was furloughed.

Bill’s business sees no downturn from the global pandemic and revenue is exactly the same as the pre-furlough year.  
Will Bill’s company’s profits for the year be;

A.  More

B.  Less

C.  The same?

 

 

Real realist 04 March 21 22:19

A. Because 9.6k of his operating costs are covered by the Government so his cost of sales are lower.  
Doh

Related News

Law Firm Satisfaction Survey

If you work in private practice, please take RollOnFriday's quick survey measuring how happy you are with your firm. We use the results to rank firms and write stories and reports.

Your firm*
Your role*
Your sex
How satisfied are you with your pay?*
How satisfied are you with your firm's management?*
How satisfied are you with your career development?*
How satisfied are you with your work/life balance?*
How satisfied are you with your firm's culture?*