Clifford Chance to cut 115 London support staff jobs

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  • Amazing

    It takes a really special kind of pikey to earn GBP200k a year, drive a Jaguar, and yet wear TM Lewin suits. Reading that made me shiver. Whoever that refers to, my god, that's shameful.

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  • Perception

    It's a truism that partners really couldn't care less for the parts of a support function that they don't see. And for the support function of any large modern day law firm that's a heck of a lot of headcount slumped beneath the radar.

    And I use the word slumped advisedly. Having worked in the finance department of a major law firm I was amazed how obtuse partner perceptions were regarding their non-fee earning members of staff. All support staff were graded on an alpha-beta-gamma-epsilon-bravo-foxtrot-omega plus-optimus prime-type scale that wouldn't look out of place at Crufts; annual performance was scored on a clumsy marks out of ten basis, a score which seemed completely arbitrary as one was deemed to perform only as well as one was personally liked by the head of department; and promotions were excruciatingly rare indeed, most top jobs being filled by external applicants from banks.

    Now, if I'd been a qualified lawyer and I'd kept my head down, worked the hours, done all the basic things right etc I'd have received annual re-grading based on my years of experience, I would have had a defined career path towards partnership and I'd be getting paid at least double or treble the salary of most non-fee earners.

    Also, as a fee-earning lawyer I too would probably have made the odd glib comment as to how lazy and unmoitivated most of the support staff were (our fee-'burners', ha ha); I too would have owned the uniquely rational position that the commoditisation of legal advice was something to be fought off with one hand, whilst encouraging legal support services commoditisation with the other; I might even have wondered why there were so many glum faces in support when their various heads of department reported nothing but success in the firmwide glossy.

    It's all about false perception. Support staff are not lazy, they're not stupid and they do have the occasional shower every now and then. Like lawyers, they too are motivated by the prospect of financial advancement, they too are encouraged when their excellence is met with the words 'well' and 'done' and the real prospect of promotion; they too feel appreciated when their advice is listened to and taken seriously - no, they don't understand the difference between going to Common Law and Equity but their wealth of experience means they know other important things about the professional world, (things that even lawyers really should want to know about) - and try swallowing this morsel of excrutiatingly sentimental truth: support staff too suffer the basic human need to feel genuinely wanted in the workplace. I used my feet and left to join a plc where professional self esteem is maintained more through commitment, cleverness and industry than sycophantic ego massage.

    And if you think sycophancy doesn't warp perceptions of the support service function you're just plain wrong. My thoughts are with everyone whose job is on the line at the moment, and to all those who have already been made redundant I wish you all a speedy and happy return to work.

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