Never is there a good time to make redundancies, but it is even worse if you are a managing partner who has spent the last two years trying to build up certain capabilities only to find you don’t have the work to fulfil that mandate.
Since 2000 Thring Townsend’s mission has been to grow through acquisition, particularly on the commercial side. In 2005 it acquired the Bristol arm of Laytons and two years later took over Lee & Pemberton, giving the firm a London base. Both contributed to the firm’s private client and commercial practices.
“It is very painful because it is hard to build up these teams,” says Thring Townsend Lee & Pemberton managing partner Thomas Sheppard.
The Bath headquartered firm is closing two offices, moving 25 people to its Swindon base and put 40 staff on redundancy consultation with about half expected to go- 60 per cent of which are lawyers. Through cutting 20 jobs, the firm aims to cut five per cent from its overhead cost base, saving £1m and therefore a few jobs.
“We have been working at about 85 per cent capacity for nine months,” says Sheppard, clearly pointing out that the firm has hung on for as long as it can.
Firms like Thring Townsend enjoy some flexibility when it comes to considering redundancies. Thompson says he is willing to “listen to anything” including job share options for support staff. “People before property,” he has told staff.
The prospect of a four day week is still remote, however, with Sheppard arguing that the client comes first.
It is looking at a partnership restructure with a rearrangement of the lockstep structure, with some partners being asked to look at whether they can make cuts to save the jobs of others, says Sheppard.
It’s times like these that working for smaller firms becomes a bonus. Sheppard is a personable boss, he knows his staff and he wants to do anything he can to save them without compromising the business. It is little wonder that he, together with the staff that face the chop, is finding the task a painful experience.