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Associate committee rejects partners' proposal of salary cuts in favour of layoffs
Brobeck Hale and Dorr has ditched proposals to cut associate salaries in favour of a voluntary redundancy programme that sees five associates departing the firm. US-qualified corporate lawyers Rohit Bhoothalingham and Steve Jackson, UK-qualified lawyers Fabion Mazzocchetti and Christian Kimberley and IT lawyer Belinda Winward have all accepted the firm's offer. Three weeks ago the partnership - an independent joint venture between US firms Brobeck Phleger & Harrison and Hale and Dorr - decided that the firm needed to curb costs and so asked associates whether they would be prepared to take a 15 per cent salary cut for an intended period of six months. The plans were considered by an associate committee, which was set up a year ago following a slump in the corporate deal flow. Committee member Tim Corbett told The Lawyer that the proposals were not received favourably. "We were asked to gauge the sentiment among the associates. There wasn't broad support for salary cuts but there was support for a voluntary redundancy offer," he said. "We went back to the partners with our finding and then they came back to us with a proposal." London managing partner Tom Kellerman confirmed the voluntary redundancy scheme and claimed that the departures of five lawyers was enough. "There will not be any more," he stated. However, given that there are around 30 associates in the UK, there is a discrepancy between a 15 per cent pay cut for all associates and the departure of just five of them. This suggests that there may need to be further cost cuts in the future. The doubt is exacerbated by an internal announcement by Hale and Dorr senior partner John Burgess, who is understood to have pledged the US firm's help to the joint venture if it is unable to fulfil its funding commitments. The redundancies will come as a blow to morale at the firm, which has suffered at the hands of its joint parent firm Brobeck. Since November, the Bay Area firm has laid off 171 associates, frozen associate salaries and most recently suffered the high-profile loss of ex-chairman Tower Snow, who led 16 partners to Clifford Chance to set up an office on the West Coast. However, the news will not have come as a surprise given the cost-cutting strategies of most Bay Area firms and firms specialising in technology, the exception being Morrison & Foerster, which decided to retain its lockstep pay system and which gave its associates full pay increases this year.