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Long day's journey into night for firms

Long day's journey into night for firms

Far from it being the end of the GFC, more proof comes showing this is going to be a long, painful journey for most legal firms.

FAR from it being the end of the GFC, more proof comes showing this is going to be a long, painful journey for most legal firms. 

This week the legal elite have been left reeling as mega firm Burges Salmon confirms its second round of redundancies this year. 

A total of 31 jobs are under threat at the firm, including up to 27 support roles, following a business review, reports Legal Week. 

In addition, Burges Salmon has opted to freeze both support staff and fee earner salaries at 2008 levels, with the newly-qualified rate dropping from £43,000 (AUD$82,000) to £40,000 (AUD$80,000).

The first round of redundancies at the firm saw 18 lawyers lose their jobs in March.

Burges Salmon managing partner, Chris Jackson, said: “The proposals we are announcing today are the culmination of the business services and secretarial review we started in March. They are aimed at achieving enhanced and more efficient levels of service delivery and also represent a considered response to the continuing depressed conditions in the property market. 

“The firm remains strong across our sector teams and practice areas. We are confident that we will be well-placed for the economic upturn.”

In June it was revealed that as many as 10,000 lawyers could be out of work in the UK in the next two years as the legal business faces its worst slump in decades, reported The Times. 

More than one in ten of the country’s 83,000 privately employed solicitors could lose their jobs, recruiters, consultants and senior law firm partners told The Times, and will struggle to find new jobs even as the economy emerges from the recession.


The total number of jobs in the legal sector, including non-solicitors, fell by 16,700 in 2008, from 296,500 to 279,800, according to the Office for National Statistics, and the scale of losses is set to worsen this year.

In 2009 the cuts continued with major city firms such as SJ Berwin, Linklaters, Allen & Overy and the world’s biggest law firm, Clifford Chance, all culling staff numbers, including partners. 

Along with shedding staff, firms have also reported shrinking profits. Leading firms, such as Eversheds, Herbert Smith, Lovells and Norton Rose, all reported decline in partners’ earnings of up to a third for the 2008-09 financial year, which ended on April 30, compared to the 2007-08 year. 

Total spending on legal services - which fell 6 per cent in February, 12 per cent in March and 17 per cent in April - is forecast to fall by 12 per cent over the next 12 months. 

The falling demand comes at a time of renewed pressure on law firms to cut fees with many clients demanding frozen or discounted hourly rates, fixed fees and other measures.

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