DWF, having completed five mergers in less than 18 months and with a remarkable 84% increase in turnover to £188m, has become one of the most closely watched national practices in the legal market of late. The expansion has led to some significant streamlining of the business however and the firm has confirmed to Legal Business it has cut 38 staff from its ranks following redundancy consultations that began in May.
‘Following a recent restructure, DWF has had a net reduction of 38 roles across the practice groups,’ said a firm statement. The firm would neither specify which offices the job cuts have affected nor which roles.
The redundancies come after DWF announced a review of 80 roles in May, while two months previous to that the firm placed 99 jobs under threat after its run of five acquisitions – and having taken on the heavy load of 419 staff from the collapsing Cobbetts.
DWF also confirmed in May that the redundancy consultation would affect fee-earners and support staff at the firm’s Manchester, Coventry, Teesside and London bases, while restructuring at the Birmingham office was completed with two exiting the office and three others finding alternative roles.
Meanwhile Hill Dickinson, following an announcement in April that it would be reviewing jobs ‘in response to the prevailing market conditions’ has announced a total of 83 job losses, including 14 partners and 69 employees – 44 of which are leaving on a voluntary basis.
The news was confirmed shortly after the firm had announced it has sold its Chester office to Midlands firm Knights Solicitors for an undisclosed sum. The acquisition is a first for the James Caan-led Knights following the private equity investment it received from Hamilton Bradshaw in June 2012.
The cuts are a surprise given Hill Dickinson has averaged 10% revenue growth over the last five years and posted a 22% rise in profit per lawyer in 2011/12.
Senior partner David Wareing said: ‘This has been a sensitive time for all involved and we have done our utmost to conduct a professional and thorough consultation process with our staff throughout.
‘We have a strong and sustainable business and indeed many of our teams recorded revenue growth in the last financial year. Inevitably however, we have been affected like all our competitors by the difficult trading conditions which presently exist in our regional centres and accordingly it has been necessary for us to proactively manage the business to ensure the stability of the firm as a whole and to enable us to continue to further invest in the business in the future.’
In the City, Taylor Wessing, having enjoyed modest financial growth this year with UK revenue growing 4% to £104.5m, has confirmed 22 secretaries will be made redundant. This was originally anticipated to be 26 out of a consultation of 96 secretarial roles which began in June.
The firm said the consultation was part of a restructure of its secretarial resource rather than simply a headcount reduction exercise. It also expects a new secretarial support model to improve workplace efficiency with new secretarial services desk that will provide document services support to secretaries and fee-earners alike.
Finally, just four partners and eight staff at DLA Piper have decided to accept permanent relocation from its now closed Glasgow office to Edinburgh. This follows a three-month trial period in which the 10 partners and 30 other staff could decide whether to make the move. DLA declined to comment.
The latest cuts by Taylor Wessing, DLA Piper, DWF, and Hill Dickinson are a string of many across major UK firms under pressure to maintain profit levels, with firms such as Berwin Leighton Paisner and Eversheds both confirming job cuts this year.