Cobbetts, Halliwells go in search of further cuts

North West firms Cobbetts and Halliwells have launched further redundancy consultations as they seek to cut costs in the face of a looming recession.

Cobbetts is reviewing 28 support staff jobs, taking the potential number of redundancies at the North West firm since the start of the economic downturn to 69.

Some 20 secretaries are facing job cuts following the introduction of a bulk document production service, while eight support roles in facilities, finance and IT may be cut as a result of an estimated 35 fee-earner redundancies.

A Cobbetts spokesman said: “Earlier this year, the firm started a review of secretarial capacity following the successful introduction of its document production centre. The efficiencies brought about by this new initiative will lead to 20 secretaries potentially being made redundant.

“These have been difficult decisions to take. However, along with competitors, the firm needed to act to ensure the long-term success of the business and that efficiencies from service improvements are realised.”

The spokesman added: “The firm has worked hard during the consultation to minimise the number of people being made redundant. This has included the use of reduced hours, sabbaticals and seeking volunteers.”

Cobbetts made six members of staff redundant this summer, while a review launched with a further 40 fee-earners is expected to result in 35 job losses.
Halliwells has begun its third redundancy consultation, with 10 lawyers in its banking and corporate department affected (as reported on TheLawyer.com, 29 October).

The firm recently completed a redundancy consultation with its real estate department that resulted in 26 job cuts.

Halliwells had been in talks with 40 members of staff, including fee-earners and support staff. Of the 26 job cuts, six staff members were redeployed into other departments, while 20 have left the firm.

Halliwells was one of the first firms in the UK 200 to make redundancies this year, with 12 losing their jobs in the spring following the firm’s first consultation.

This takes the total number of layoffs at the firm to 38 so far this year.
Many of the major firms with offices in the North West – including Cobbetts, Dickinson Dees, Eversheds, Fox Hayes, Pannone and Ward Hadaway – have already made redundancies.

One regional managing partner told The Lawyer: “I’m talking to about 10 Halliwells partners at the moment.” The partners concerned are understood to be from a number of different practice areas.

Meanwhile, Ward Hadaway, which launched a consultation with 30 members of staff in its real estate department, has made 21 redundant. Of these, 17 were support staff and four were lawyers. This comprises just over five per cent of the total 392 members of staff at the firm.

Eversheds is to continue its redundancy consultation for a further three weeks. The firm launched a consultation in September with 33 real estate lawyers and related support staff. To date, four lawyers and two secretaries have been made redundant in the firm’s Newcastle office.