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Exclusive: 27 staff forced out of mid-tier in major cutbacks

Exclusive: 27 staff forced out of mid-tier in major cutbacks

A prominent Australian firm is understood to have axed more than 20 personnel in a move that has rocked staff across its offices.

Lawyers Weekly understands that marching orders were given to 27 staff* of Henry Davis York yesterday.

It is not clear how many among those whose jobs HDY has axed are lawyers or legal support staff.

In response to queries about Tuesday’s sizeable lay off, the firm issued a statement which focused mostly on the need to innovate its business and offer clients value for money.

HDY did not directly address the matter of the 27 staff who had been fired, however alluded to “consultation decisions”, which the firm said it felt were necessary. The statement went on to describe the transformational environment HDY operated in and how the landscape of the legal market was requiring all law firms to evolve.

“Henry Davis York is always considering the best business model and operational structure to ensure we offer our clients value in this transformational environment. This is nothing new. We, like a number of peer firms, have constantly evolved and adapted in the last 100 years,” the firm said.

“We are embracing new delivery models and reinvigorating our business model to be more agile and allow for greater investment in areas of growth and efficiency.

“In implementing this program, we are consulting with some of our colleagues about their roles in the firm this week. These consultation decisions were not taken lightly and were necessary to ensure the firm’s future success,” the statement said.

HDY’s business has been subject to some recent media spotlight, following its discussions with Norton Rose Fulbright about a possible merger last November.

When Lawyers Weekly reached out to HDY about the widely speculated merger talks, the firm’s response was equally coy about any merger prospects with NRF.

A representative for HDY dismissed the notion of a NRF merger but then went on to later tell Fairfax’s Street Talk: “HDY, as should any law firm in the Australian legal market, talks to other firms all the time on a range of subjects”.

The national firm’s last major gutting was reported three years ago, with 13 personnel laid off, following a management decision that HDY said had been difficult. The 2014 axing affected eight administrative staff and five lawyers.

HDY remained tight-lipped about which of its offices in Brisbane, Canberra or Sydney had been affected.

According to the HDY website, the mid-tier currently has 47 partners across its three offices.

Just last week HDY had announced three new dispute resolution specialists would start with the firm in May.

*Update: Lawyers Weekly has received new information (4.5.17) that 25 staff have been let go by Henry Davis York in the most recent round of retrenchments. 

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