You can learn a lot from Linklaters (just ask Simmons), both from what it does and from what it doesn’t do. Take Allen & Overy (A&O), the latest magic circle firm to make massive staff cuts a la Linklaters.
The debate stirred up by these cuts on TheLawyer.com was vociferous and revealing. The first theme is the ‘greedy pigs’ attitude. Although this criticism could be labelled as naive, the sentiment will still linger. If businesses are all about branding these days, then such vitriol will hurt.
Another emerging theme is the need for clarity. Our readers, who are often working for the firms featuring in these stories, crave information. So, to clear up a few things:
Clifford Chance announced lawyer redundancies in London on 8 January. It then announced it would cut its partnership on 4 February.
TheLawyer.com revealed that Linklaters was to cut partners, associates and staff on 23 January.
On 29 January Linklaters finally announced it would be making lawyers and support staff redundant. The firm did not mention partners or the cuts affecting the rest of its network. Presumably these cuts can be made more easily away from the public gaze.
On 19 February A&O announced it would be cutting 9 per cent of its partners, 9 per cent of its lawyers and 9 per cent of its support staff – across the whole firm.
Given the identikit actions of all its peers, it has probably made the right business decision. But the Linklaters brand has taken a hell of a kicking from staff, competitors and clients.
This is not a self-serving rant, by the way: we would much rather reveal things than have law firms announce them. People just like to be kept informed of developments. It builds trust.
A&O’s partnership is one of the most aloof, but somehow maintains a cuddly image. Linklaters’ partners are often a genial bunch, but are portrayed as cut-throat demons.
If profits do decline for the next few years rather than dip temporarily, there won’t be much recruitment in the near future. But the market will come back. And when it does, image will matter.