Minter Ellison have made 35 staff members redundant, including 11 lawyers, in response to a recent softening in demand for legal services in some areas, said chief executive partner John Weber.
From Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, a total of eight lawyers and 20 support staff were let go, while the Adelaide office made three lawyers and four support staff redundant last week.
Lawyers from the property, construction and finance practice areas in senior associate to junior positions were affected, but reductions did not impact on the graduate program.
Weber said the firm regretted the reduction in staff numbers as a result of the economic downturn, but the decision was made to protect the firm's position in an "increasingly challenging market".
"There is no doubt that the economic downturn will continue to affect our business, as it will other businesses. Next financial year is going to be tough for our clients and the firm. We expect parts of the market to be soft and partner incomes to be lower next financial year," he told Lawyers Weekly.
"We do not expect to have any further GFC-related redundancies in any offices."
Ongoing outplacement assistance and redundancy payments in excess of the relevant state awards were offered to affected staff.
The Minter Ellison redundancies came after Weber confirmed with Lawyers Weekly last month that only exceptional performances would warrant a pay rise for the firm's 2300 staff this year.
Freehills staff members were told in March that a salary freeze had been imposed and flexible work options extended.
Other law firms that have made cuts this year include Blake Dawson, with 89 staff members; Thomson Playford Cutlers; HWL Ebsworth; Herbert Geer; and Hicksons Lawyers, while Deacons, DLA Phillips Fox and Corrs Chamber Westgarth laid off staff last year.
Last month, employees at Allens Arthur Robinson were offered voluntary redundancies and a flexibility program, including opportunities for staff to work shorter days, purchase annual leave and take a career break.
Back in March, Lawyers Weekly spoke to leading law firms about the GFC and whether redundancies would be occurring as a result of the downturn.
- Sarah Sharples