Mid-market ;firms including ;Addleshaw Goddard and Trowers & Hamlins are learning from the magic circle and sharing out work from busier practice areas rather than making ;large-scale redundancies.
Trowers has retrained five solicitors and redeployed them into busier areas. Three have left commercial property, one to go to planning, one to litigation and one to housing projects. A further housing projects associate is being retrained as ;an ;environmental solicitor, and a commercial property associate is being retrained in environmental work.
Trowers senior partner Jonathan Adlington said: “If we want to recruit, the first thing is to find out if we can move somebody internally. We don’t have to pay recruitment fees and the lawyer is kept in work. It’s a win-win situation.
“It’s our job to move people across to growth areas, retrain them and find work in other parts of the firm. This is the culture now. If a department doesn’t have enough work you put up your hand and we’ll help you sort it out.”
Retraining consists of one-on-one assistance from relevant partners within the practice groups into which lawyers are moving and external courses that the firm pays for.
This has helped the firm avoid making any redundancies as a result of the current ;economic downturn. Across the top 200 UK law firms more than 800 jobs have been made redundant to date.
Lovells has also moved lawyers into busier departments as an alternative to job cuts. Managing partner David Harris said: “We’re moving some resources around into areas that need it, such as banking and finance. At the associate level it needs a little bit of retraining, but not a lot.
“I can’t rule redundancies out, and because of the shape of our practice and our strong performance we’re not actively looking at it at the moment, but we have to keep an open mind.”
Addleshaws ;has approached the same problem by moving paper rather than people.
Managing partner Mark Jones said: “We don’t move people between divisions because it generates a turf war. We leave the individuals in their division and take the work to them.”
Jones praised the magic circle for using its human resources ;effectively. “They’re more like the big accountancy firms in terms of how they redeploy their assets,” he said. “They’re better at saying to corporate lawyers, ‘right, now you’re a restructuring lawyer.’”
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer has a group of corporate and finance lawyers primed to focus on restructuring deals in the new year, while Allen & Overy has already begun pulling banking lawyers into restructuring work (The Lawyer, 3 November).
But Jones lambasted the legal profession’s general lack of flexibility over redeployment, saying: “As an industry, we’re nowhere near as good as we should be. We’re too overspecialised in general, too narrow-minded.”