Round 2: White & Case London fails to dodge axe

Round 2: <a class=White & Case London fails to dodge axe” />The London office of White & Case escaped ­relatively unscathed last November when the firm announced 70 associate ­layoffs, mainly from its US network. But this time ­London was not so lucky.

Last week (10 March), reported that the firm is expecting to shed between 80 and 95 employees from the City, with 200 legal and 200 administrative staff being axed worldwide.

“The London office has focused on capital markets,” says one inside source. “It’s no surprise we’ll be affected by this.”

But it is not just the ­associates who are at risk – the London partnership will also be scaled back. Every partner in the office was informed at the end of ­February that the entire partnership was under review, a process that is expected to complete by 6 April.

The reshaping currently going on among the magic circle is clearly infectious. White & Case London head Oliver ;Brettle ;echoes the sentiment of Clifford Chance’s and Linklaters’ management teams in ­supporting the need to remould their firms in preparation for a new legal market.

“We need to look at client demand and the shape of the legal market over the next few years,” says Brettle. “This move’s not just about the immediate impact of the economic downturn, but the development of the ­economy and legal services for the future.”

Layoffs aside, it has been a turbulent time for White & Case. A string of management overhauls, followed by a controversial review by consultancy McKinsey & Company last year, have seen the firm trying to transform itself into a more efficient beast, better equipped to deal with its sprawling ­international network.

It ;remains ;unclear whether the multitude of changes have been effective. White & Case is still implementing the McKinsey ­recommendations, and the downturn is no doubt ­making the task more ­challenging.

Despite the office ­closures, layoffs and firm reshaping, Brettle insists that White & Case remains dedicated to its international network.

“I don’t see the firm retrenching from the ­international market at all,” insists Brettle. “Our network has been a great asset to us and scaling that back is not part of the plan.”