Sunday, March 01, 2009

Dundas & Wilson to make 50 staff redundant as recession bites away at legal business in Scotland

Dundas & Wilson, one of Scotland’s larger law firms, plans to shed 50 jobs as the credit crunch and crumbling business in the legal sector bites.

Since there’s not much incentive for anyone to use legal services in Scotland these days, things can only get worse in the legal sector unless standards of service and more competitive fees for legal work come to be implemented …

The Scotsman reports :

Scotland's biggest law firm to shed jobs, from junior staff to partners

Published Date: 28 February 2009
By Jane Bradley and Christopher Mackie

PARTNERS at Dundas & Wilson are to lose their jobs as part of a swathe of cutbacks at Scotland's biggest law firm.

The practice is to axe up to 50 jobs across its three offices as work dries up amid the economic downturn.

Dundas & Wilson (D&W), which has its head office in Edinburgh and two other bases in Glasgow and London, added that it had already asked some of its 35 graduate trainees due to start in 2009 to defer their positions for 12 months.

The firm's managing partner, Donald Shaw, said the cuts would be spread proportionally throughout its three offices – which have a combined headcount of 669 staff – and would be evenly split between lawyers and back office staff.

It is understood that a "small number" of partners are among those set to lose their jobs.

Edinburgh, where 308 of the D&W staff are based, is likely to see around 23 job losses, while Glasgow and London, which employ 168 and 193 workers respectively, will lose around 14 staff each.

Corporate law has been particularly hard hit in the downturn, Mr Shaw said, because of the lack of mergers and acquisitions activity in a climate of tough bank lending criteria. He added that the firm's real estate division was also badly affected.

He said: "We have not taken this decision lightly but unfortunately we must act to rebalance our capacity with our predicted levels of future business. This is a reflection of market conditions. The economy is not looking like it is improving and we need to accept that.

"There are a small number of partners affected; these cuts are coming across the whole business."

He added: "Almost every area (of the business] has been hit, except restructuring services and litigation."

However, Mr Shaw said the firm may be better off than many of its competitors, due to its top-end client base of blue-chip companies, many of which are continuing to do deals. It is understood that the entire corporate transaction market is down 60 per cent on last year.

A total of nine trainees due to start in September have agreed to defer their places for a year.

Mr Shaw said: "They need to have training, and if we think workflows are down, it is not a good time for them to learn. Clients are not very happy at this crucial time to have very junior lawyers working on their cases."

In the 12 months to the end of April 2008, D&W reported 23 per cent growth in annual revenues to £74.8 million.

Mr Shaw added: "We had a very strong year last year but in the current climate, it is very difficult. It is more what is going to happen than what is happening now."

He refused to comment on how steep the drop in turnover would be for the year to the end of April 2009.

The company said that a 30-day consultation process was under way involving the staff who would be affected by the cuts.

Last week, international legal firm DLA Piper announced it was to shed up to 20 jobs in its Glasgow and Edinburgh offices as part of a UK-wide redundancy programme.

That news came just days after Morton Fraser said it would make "single figure" job cuts in its private client business. Both cited current market conditions as the reason for the losses.

Earlier this month, the London "magic circle" firm Allen & Overy cut 47 partners as it announced a total of 247 redundancies as part of a £44 million restructuring programme.

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