Clifford Chance offers voluntary sabbaticals to Singapore lawyers

Clifford Chance has asked capital markets associates in its Singapore office to take voluntary sabbaticals until the end of the year as the firm reacts to a downturn in work in the region.

The magic circle firm has asked a small single-figure number of lawyers to take leave for roughly four months until the close of 2012 on a lower salary alongside benefits. The firm currently has 17 associates in its Singapore capital markets practice.

The staff are set to return at the start of the 2013 when the firm expects the Asian capital markets environment to return to higher levels.

The move follows a meeting this week between Singapore management and staff in which the option was put to associates.

The initiative is restricted to Singapore, with the firm not currently intending to roll it out elsewhere in its network. The sabbaticals do not apply to any partners.

Clifford Chance Asia-Pacific capital markets practice leader Crawford Brickley said in a statement: “Capital markets is an important part of our practice in south east Asia and India. However, in common with any business, we always keep our resourcing under review to ensure that our capability is in line with client needs. We remain very busy in other practice areas and do not expect any further changes.”

Earlier this year Clifford Chance announced a redundancy round in London for banking and capital markets associates in what the firm described as a response to decreased attrition among newly-qualified lawyers (23 March 2012).

Meanwhile, magic circle rival Freshfields has announced a re-launch in Singapore, with the office set to open for business next month (12 September 2012).

For more on the Singapore market, see special report