Crunch time at DLA

Crunch time at DLAIt had always seemed likely that DLA Piper, the world’s largest law firm by number of lawyers, would have to make some redundancies as the recession loomed.

But despite a steady stream of rumours, the firm consistently denied it was looking at redundancies and accused those claiming the contrary of spreading “malicious” gossip.

When the announcement came at the beginning of December, perhaps the only surprise was that the numbers were not higher. Forty staff in the UK, including 20 lawyers, at the world’s most populous firm – one poster on described the redundancies as “peanuts”, although those involved might not share that view.

The big question now is where those cuts will be made. DLA Piper said the redundancies would be spread across its UK offices in practices related to real estate and finance. But those in the know say that the firm’s regional offices are most likely to feel the pain. A string of partner departures suggest DLA Piper is looking at the size of its national offices.

DLA Scotland has seen seven partners leave this year and the Glasgow real estate practice has also seen several redundancies. (8 December). Now, Birmingham has been hit by the loss of three partners to Kennedys. (15 December

Lawyers in the regions have been complaining of lack of investment and seeing local instructions scuppered because of conflicts with London clients. And the firm has not exactly been rushing to replace those who have left.

Firm CEO Nigel Knowles is keen to reshape the business to fit the recession. Staff at the world’s largest firm must be wondering where the regions fit into his plans.