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DLA Piper to cut 200 UK jobs after support staff review, in favour of Warsaw hub

DLA Piper is slashing 200 business support jobs in the UK in a move that will see the firm make one of the largest law firm redundancies since the aftermath of the financial crisis.

Nearly a fifth of business support roles in the UK will be axed, with IT, finance, human resources, marketing, business development and secretary staff badly impacted by the cull. The move will see DLA Piper, which is targeting 5% profit growth each year, automate huge swathes of jobs and shift roles to low-wage economy Poland.

The changes follow a two-year review of the firm’s operations, run by chief operating officer Andrew Darwin, and a pilot of a global shared services centre in Warsaw. The firm has promised to consult with staff over the redundancies, with employees told that jobs will not be axed until October at the earliest.

Darwin told Legal Business: ‘Until the consultation is completed, we will not be making any final decisions, and we will be actively supporting our people during this process. The approach [to redundancy packages] is to be generous. We’ve benchmarked against what’s happened elsewhere and we’re trying to be respectful and compassionate.’

In a shift away from the firm’s roots in Yorkshire, where DLA Piper can trace its history back to 1764 when the firm Barnard & Bolland was established in Leeds, around 80 jobs are set to be axed in its Sheffield and Leeds offices. All of the firm’s UK offices will be affected, with around 55 roles also made redundant in London. DLA also has offices in Birmingham, Liverpool, Edinburgh and Manchester.

Darwin added: ‘The UK has always been our service centre for the international business. Because of our history, having grown up through mergers, we want to standardise things and get them done in a central location. We did a study and Poland came out very strongly. Poland is a recognised European centre for shared services.’

‘Let’s move on from the history to the future and adopt a DLA Piper way of doing things. Some of this is overdue for an overhaul and, quite frankly, for automation. Rather than doing the same thing in multiple ways, we’re going to do things in one way and where a process can be automated, we’ll be automating it.’

The move comes three years after DLA’s last UK redundancy round, when around 250 staff were laid-off in a move that also saw the firm close its Glasgow office.

The consultation will begin on 31 May 2016 and will be completed by the end of July. The move is arguably another sign of a slowdown in the legal market, with King & Wood Mallesons axing 45 business services staff in London in March and Reed Smith cutting 45 lawyer roles across the US, UK and Middle East in January.