Slater and Gordon is closing its London office as part of a plan for staff to work from home on a permanent basis.
Staff were told this week that the PI firm is going to leave its London office in September at the end of its two-year lease, and that the position of the other six offices would be reviewed.
“We have announced to our staff that we won’t ever go back to how we worked before Covid", said David Whitmore, Slater and Gordon’s chief executive. S+G's intention is to find a smaller City office to host meetings.
Slater and Gordon has already placed its head office in Manchester on the market, RollOnFriday can reveal. Slaters took a 15 year lease of the 100,000 sq ft space, which was occupied by Cobbetts until it went bust, in 2014, at a cost understood to be £22.50/sq ft.
Sub-tenants were being sought for two floors which have been vacant for some time, but in March the firm began marketing the whole building. With almost ten years left on the lease, a disposal could save Slaters millions.
Be a breeze getting rid of eight floors of office space in Manchester, especially in this market.
A spokesperson declined to confirm whether the Manchester office closure was part of the office downsizing plan. But he said that reports from sources that there were "mass redundancies on the horizon" were "wrong", although he declined to specify how many job losses would result from the WFH strategy.
“When we do look to return to our offices they won’t look like they used to and colleagues will be encouraged to continue working remotely for the majority of the time", said Whitmore. "Working smart is better for everyone. Our colleagues and our customers. It’s the S+G Way."
Closing offices certainly is the S+G way. Since 2017 the Golden Turd 2020 winner has shuttered in Chester, Wrexham, Milton Keynes and Preston. Last year it shut in Leeds with the loss of 25 fee-earners, placed 100 staff at its Watford office at risk of redundancy, and made job cuts in Birmingham.
However, it is very unlikely to be the only law firm which rejects a return to office life. As well as slashing rent bills, the move will be popular with staff who are reluctant to return to work because they have safety concerns, or because they prefer the flexibility and convenience of a commute which begins with lying in bed and ends with sitting up in bed.
Critics have flagged that staff who don't have large homes which can accommodate a private office will struggle with long term WFH. It remains to be seen whether Slaters will stump up for house extensions, but if it does, expect more employees to broadcast morale-boosting thought explosions.