DLA Piper lambasted by staff over payoffs

The scale of unrest at DLA Piper has been revealed in the minutes of a meeting between senior staff and employee representatives regarding the firm’s redundancy programme.

The meeting was held shortly after the firm last month announced that it was to lose 30 lawyers and 110 support staff in the latest round of cuts.

A transcript seen by The Lawyer shows office managing partner Catherine Usher fielding angry questions about the size of the redundancy package being offered. Unlike firms including Linklaters and Clifford Chance, DLA Piper is offering the statutory minimum compensation to departing staff.

One employee at the meeting described the package as an insult, saying: “I’m not sure you appreciate the level of anger on the floors”. Others asked why partners had not been affected.

A staff member said: “If as a result of the packages on offer I see people potentially losing their homes … no amount of nice drinks with my boss will make up for it.”

Those who take voluntary redundancy receive their contractual notice period, statutory redundancy payment plus one month’s salary.

The minutes also reveal that the firm is hoping to save £12m in costs through the redundancies and that a recruitment freeze has been in place since June 2008. The hiring freeze is understood to exclude newly-qualified lawyers and ‘essential roles’.

Human resources staff told the meeting that since June last year 100 employees had left the firm with only 26 per cent of vacancies being filled in a bid to lower costs.

Some seven to eight per cent of partners have left the firm during the last year, according to the meeting notes, but it was not revealed how many had joined during this time.

One London-based DLA Piper associate told The Lawyer: “Morale is very low. There is a fear this is going to be repeated in three-month cycles.”

It has also emerged that the firm considered moving to a four-day week but decided this did not suit its business model.

The 30-day consultation ends on 20 March. A spokesman for DLA Piper declined to comment on the content of the meeting, but said: “We’ve engaged in a thorough process which in two of our offices has included a formal collective consultation process including the election of workplace representatives. The representatives have added to the debate and we would like to thank them for their contributions.

“We’ve responded to the questions put to us by elected representatives in an open and detailed manner because we felt this was the right thing to do.”