Legal Business Blogs

Just like buses – Dentons latest to relocate support jobs somewhere cheaper with Warsaw move

With Norton Rose Fulbright (NRF) this morning (19 May) announcing an offshoring move expected to hit 170 jobs, Dentons has revealed its own plans to open a services centre in Poland.

In a move expected to affect 50 back-office jobs in the UK, the new Dentons Business Services EMEA unit is a joint initiative of the firm’s practices in the UK, Middle East and Africa (UKMEA) and Europe. To launch in Warsaw later this year, the centre will be headed by director Piotr Macieja, who joins from professional services provider TMF.

The centre will provide support in finance, business development, marketing, human resources and IT for lawyers and professionals. The firm said certain tasks are due to transition over to Warsaw during the course of 2016/17 and will impact certain business services roles within the UK.

A consultation process will shortly kick off with affected teams. The firm’s initial proposals affect an estimated 50 roles in the UK, though some of those roles are currently fixed-term contracts or represent current vacancies.

Dentons added that the consultation will aim to identify ways to mitigate redundancies but otherwise ‘will be providing support to those affected during this period of uncertainty’.

Dentons UKMEA chief executive Jeremy Cohen (pictured) told Legal Business: ‘There’s a number of reasons behind this – it’s a very competitive market and we want to show our clients we can deliver cost-effectively. Global firm integration is critical for us. We did an exhaustive study for many of shared services and Warsaw scored very highly for value. It also has high graduate population and we have a lot of investment there.’

‘It will be business services functions only – we can do this to the best quality with a specialised office. We’ll be able to do this better if it has a dedicated centre. The whole way we set this up lends itself to different configuration. We’re starting off in Europe and UK – we will be looking at other regions.’

Cohen added it was ‘too early to say’ how many roles would be cut in London.

This morning NRF announced that it is kicking off a consultation process with staff in its business support teams whose roles may be affected for its upcoming business services centre launch in The Philippines. DLA Piper made a similar move last week and announced it is to slash 200 business support jobs in the UK.

While it will be a grim moment for Dentons staffers, the firm did incongruously take the opportunity to drum home its famously idiosyncratic global sales pitch with the firm’s statement, including a surprisingly upbeat quote from chief executive Elliott Portnoy: ‘As we have grown, it is important for us to build on this momentum, while recognising that as a polycentric firm we respect the legal traditions and cultures in all of our markets. By bringing together those service offerings that have the scope to be harmonised across the UKMEA and Europe regions, [this venture] represents a major step towards this objective.’

Hmmm. Amid what is shaping up to be a challenging year for major global law firms, many would frame such developments in a more gloomy light but it seems certain that more major law firms will follow suit in the weeks to come.