find the latest legal job
Senior Associate - Litigation & Dispute Resolution
Category: Litigation and Dispute Resolution | Location: Melbourne CBD & Inner Suburbs Melbourne VIC
· Come work for a firm ranked in Lawyers Weekly Top 25 Attraction Firms
View details
Associate - Workplace Relations & Safety
Category: Industrial Relations and Employment Law | Location: Brisbane CBD & Inner Suburbs Brisbane QLD
· Employer of choice · Strong team culture
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Banking and Finance Law | Location: All Perth WA
· Freelance opportunities through Vario from Pinsent Masons
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Adelaide SA
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Freelance Lawyers
Category: Other | Location: All Melbourne VIC
· • Qualified lawyer with a strong academic background
View details
Firms shuffle lawyers to avoid redundancies

Firms shuffle lawyers to avoid redundancies

A major legal recruiter has offered some insight into recent redundancies and hiring freezes made by Australian law firms like Blake Dawson, DLA Phillips Fox, Minter Ellison, Clayton Utz, Deacons and Corrs.

A major legal recruiter has offered some insight into recent redundancies and hiring freezes made by Australian law firms, such as Blake Dawson, DLA Phillips Fox, Minter Ellison, Clayton Utz, Deacons and Corrs Chambers Westgarth.

As law firms make radical cuts to their staff and lawyer numbers amid economic uncertainty and bleeding balance sheets, legal recruiter Hudson has announced that almost half of Australia's legal managers are not replacing staff as they leave, and that 44.3 per cent will continue axing roles.

While not commenting specifically on a particular law firm, or those that have made recent redundancies, Stuart Ablethorpe, director of Legal at Hudson said hiring managers are looking at a range of steps they can take to manage through the global downturn. 

Less obvious and publicised structural changes are also being made to law firm business, the survey of 185 hiring managers within law firms reveals. As job cuts have hit the headlines for some firms, more than 39 per cent of law firms are redeploying staff and lawyers elsewhere within their businesses.

"A lot of firms are looking at utilisation rates of their lawyers and are redeploying them into areas such as insolvency, general commercial litigation, insurance litigation, wherever the demand is," said Ablethorpe. 

Law firms making large numbers of redundancies, and facing negative press as a result, have pointed to other firms in recent months, claiming lawyers are being moved between unrelated practice areas to avoid the unwanted redundancy tar and feathering from the media. 

Some senior lawyers have spoken anonymously about the way their firms are moving particularly junior lawyers from practice areas with a surplus of practitioners into areas like insolvency, litigation and workplace relations. 

Ablethorpe said such suggestions are very real. "There hasn't been a massive demand for recruitment for insolvency lawyers over the past six years. So those groups are pretty skinny going into the current environment. 

"Where that work has picked up a lot of firms have moved their M&A and banking and finance lawyers into those areas. Insolvency lawyers in town have probably had the M&A lawyers launching with intent on their floor at different stages over the last couple of months," he said.

Ablethorpe said, however, that a lot of these moves are justified. "A lot of insolvency is about restructuring organisations to become operationally viable. M&A lawyers are used to restructuring organisations, so it's a good utilisation of skills.

"At the end of the day, in six months, a year, or two years' time, were going to end up with better skilled lawyers because they will have had exposure to disciplines they would not have had. That can only make a more well-rounded practitioner."

As well as moving into insolvency, lawyers are going into insurance, workcover, particularly amongst panel firms in Victoria at the junior end, Ablethorpe said.

Where firms cannot find placement within the firm, they are avoiding redundancies via sending lawyers onto secondments.  "Junior lawyers are being put out to particularly not for profits by way of increasing a firm's pro bono spread."

Like this story? Read more:

QLS condemns actions of disgraced lawyer as ‘stain on the profession’

NSW proposes big justice reforms to target risk of reoffending

The legal budget breakdown 2017

Firms shuffle lawyers to avoid redundancies
lawyersweekly logo
Promoted content
Recommended by Spike Native Network
more from lawyers weekly
Oct 23 2017
How to fail well
The legal profession is due for an attitude adjustment when it comes to perceived failures, accordin...
Oct 23 2017
Lawyers slam rushed consultation for SA repeat offenders bill
The Law Society of South Australia has expressed concern for a proposal to roll out new laws amendin...
Oct 23 2017
The pursuit of happiness in the law
A panel of legal experts have explored how to define success in the legal profession, and how lawyer...
Allens managing partner Richard Spurio, image courtesy Allens' website
Jun 21 2017
Promo season at Allens
A group of lawyers at Allens have received promotions across its PNG and Australian offices. ...
May 11 2017
Partner exits for in-house role
A Victorian lawyer has left the partnership of a national firm to start a new gig with state governm...
Esteban Gomez
May 11 2017
National firm recruits ‘major asset’
A national law firm has announced it has appointed a new corporate partner who brings over 15 years'...
Nicole Rich
May 16 2017
Access to justice for young transgender Australians
Reform is looming for the process that young transgender Australians and their families must current...
Geoff Roberson
May 11 2017
The lighter side of the law: when law and comedy collide
On the face of it, there doesn’t seem to be much that is amusing about the law, writes Geoff Rober...
May 10 2017
Advocate’s immunity – without fear or without favour but not both
On 29 March 2017, the High Court handed down its decision in David Kendirjian v Eugene Lepore & ...