Regional property firms in second wave of culls

Several regional ­residential conveyancing practices have begun a ­second round of redundancies, taking the total number of job cuts in The Lawyer’s UK 200 to 730.

Regional property firms in second wave of cullsA number of regional ­residential conveyancing practices have begun a ­second round of redundancies, taking the total number of job cuts made in firms listed in The Lawyer’s UK 200 to 730.

Shoosmiths, which made a number of staff redundant in June, has laid off a further nine in a second wave, bringing the total number of job cuts at the firm to 32. A total of five fee-earners lost their jobs in the two culls. All of those affected were in Northampton’s ­residential conveyancing ;team. ­Property made up 27 per cent, or £27.9m, of the firm’s turnover for 2007-08.

With a total of 1,481 staff, the 32 redundancies constituted just 2 per cent of total headcount, while the five fee-earners made up 0.55 per cent of total fee-earners.

The picture is different at regional firm Tollers, which ;has ;made ;25 ­redundancies following two consultations. The 25 people who lost their jobs made up 10 per cent of the 228-strong headcount. Nineteen of the 25 were based in the conveyancing practice, with the ­remaining six from the personal legal services team. ­Property accounted for 31 per cent (£3.5m) of Tollers’ 2007-08 turnover.

Leeds-based Fox Hayes has also launched a second consultation with 18 members of staff, including eight fee-earners. This follows on from the 25, including 10 fee-earners, who were made redundant earlier this year. All of those affected are in the firm’s property ­conveyancing department.

Managing partner Philip Drazen said: “We’ve got one of the largest conveyancing practices in the country. Turnover will be down to £9m this year [from £10.1m last year], which is why we have to make redundancies.”
The 43 staff constitute 17 per cent of Fox Hayes’ total headcount of 254, while the 18 fee-earners make up 12 per cent of the 149-strong fee-earning capacity.

Many firms are now seeking to position themselves in other growth sectors.
Shoosmiths recently hired associate Harold Brako from DLA Piper to assist lender services head Waine ­Mannix in the launch of a niche mortgage recovery office in Manchester. Chief executive Paul Stothard said that the niche approach “would be consistent with how we went into Birmingham, where it was well over a year before we looked at other practice areas”.

Shoosmiths opened a property practice in Birmingham in 2003. Stothard said the firm would adopt a cautious approach before expanding into other areas in Manchester.

Fox Hayes is also reshaping its focus, with Drazen saying the remortgaging department was “busier than ever”, adding: “This year is a question of micromanaging the business.”

EMW Law in Milton Keynes has also completed a second wave of redundancies, cutting 17 staff, including six fee-earners. The total number of redundancies at the firm now stands at 22.

Legal Job Watch, with your help, is publishing up-to-the-minute news of layoffs, breaking them down by region and practice area. There is also practical advice, plus exclusive data from Lawyer Jobs on where the employment ­opportunities are. As with all stories on, you can post your comments, as many readers have already done on this subject. If you have a topic you want us to look at, or an opinion you want to get off your chest, you can also email us in confidence at legaljobwatch@thelawyer. com.