"These are tough times, I'm just trying to steer us through," one Bristol managing partner sighs.
Talk of legal redundancies are high on the agenda across the South West, with Clarke Willmott currently in consultation with 40 members of staff (The Lawyer.com28 October).
But many firms are trying to make the most of their legal expertise by finding their less-busy staff members new projects to work on in countercyclical areas. For example, at Bond Pearce, commercial property lawyers are focusing on mortgage recovery work and corporate lawyers are expected to do renewable energy projects.
At Osborne Clarke, managing partner Simon Beswick is determined to avoid a culling despite a drop off in corporate deals - the firm's bread and butter. He too is considering redeploying corporate lawyers and the firm won't replace those who have left that department.
Meanwhile, TLT Solicitors managing partner David Pester is typically upbeat about the challenges presented by the recession.
He reckons it is simply a matter of getting to know what point your clients are at in the economic cycle and tailoring advice appropriately. So the once buoyant financial services, leisure and retail departments will now be looking at countercyclical opportunities. Banking, for example, has grown from 27 to 45 driven by growth in restructuring. On redundancies he says: "You never rule out that you need to structure your business to market conditions and it's a continuous process."
Watch this space to see how that piece of management speak unravels. Clarke Willmott wasn't the first and is unlikely to be the last.