Lovells has begun a redundancy programme that will see up to 94 members of London staff lose their jobs.
A total of 18 lawyers are at risk of redundancy, with 43 support staff, 27 secretaries and six professional support lawyers also likely to lose their jobs.
The consultation process, which will last for one month, will begin this week once representatives of the groups affected have been elected.
London managing partner Ruth Grant said: “Over the past six months we’ve taken a number of steps in the London office to address capacity, including not replacing legal and other staff, reducing use of contractors, and reducing our discretionary expenditure.
“Following a reassessment of the types and levels of support services, the main focus of the programme will be on support staff and legal PAs. Some lawyers will also be affected.
“The continuing deterioration in market conditions makes it regrettable but necessary to take this action now.”
The firm’s partners and trainees will not be affected by the redundancy programme, although Lovells does manage out underperforming partners on an ongoing basis.
On the trainee front, the firm will retain 78 per cent of its spring qualifiers. This is roughly in line with the firm’s September 2007 and September 2008 retention rates, when the firm kept on 79 per cent and 74 per cent of qualifiers respectively.
In terms of practice areas, while support staff across the board will be affected, fee-earning lawyers in the dispute resolution, business restructuring and insolvency, IP and pensions practices will not be part of the redundancy consultation.
Unlike its peers in the UK top 10, Lovells has enjoyed reasonably robust financial performance going into the recession. Over the first six months of the 2008-09 financial year the firm saw fee income increase by 15 per cent, up from £225m during the first half of the previous year to £260m.
Firmwide managing partner David Harris said: “Whilst overall performance levels across the firm have so far been reasonably good considering the economic environment, the continued uncertainty means that we need to take additional measures to manage our capacity levels and overall cost base.”
While the redundancy programme will only affect staff in London, some of the firm’s international offices will also experience cuts, which will be handled locally. A spokesperson for the firm confirmed that the firm’s Middle Eastern offices will be immune to cuts for the time being, while a memo has been sent to staff in Germany saying there are no plans to carry out a formal redundancy programme in the country.
The firm will decide on its severance packages as part of the redundancy consultation.