CC set to lay off London associates as Linklaters confirms support cuts

Clifford Chance (CC) is set to make cuts in its London finance and capital markets practices, with up to 13 associates at risk of losing their jobs at the magic circle firm.

The redundancies are being handled through individual consultations, which are expected to close in around two weeks’ time. The firm said the job losses are a response to a drop in natural attrition in its 1,000-strong London fee earner ranks.

London managing partner David Bickerton said: “We are proposing to make a small number of lawyers redundant in London. Our business is very strong and resilient and we continue to grow.

“However, our attrition has fallen significantly and we have a programme of trainees and new qualifiers coming through. It is important to ensure that our resources are in line with the business needs. We have not taken this decision lightly.”

“We anticipate a maximum of 13 redundancies out of a total of nearly 1,000 fee earners in London and we have no plans for any more.”

One CC finance partner said: “Everything David is saying in the statement is true. Normally we would reckon to lose 15%-20% of associates a year through natural attrition. In finance and capital markets we have not even been losing 2% because of the job market. We’ve got a lockjam at the top without enough places to promote people into the partnership. It’s just bad luck in timing for them, really.

“It is affecting finance and capital markets because corporate still has attrition to companies that are definitely hiring counsel, while litigation is having a bit of a boom. No partners are being made redundant and there hasn’t been any stricter performance measures that I have noted.”

Meanwhile, magic circle rival Linklaters has confirmed that it has made a number of back office job cuts, although the firm declined to comment on the timing or the exact numbers involved.

A spokesperson said: “We can confirm that reluctantly there have been a small number of headcount reductions in business services in the UK.”

News of the latest job cuts comes after CC made a significantly larger redundancy round three years ago amid the global financial crisis, when around 90 associates were laid off from the Canary Wharf headquarters, with further job losses in the firm’s global network. The associate job losses came in addition to a restructuring of the firm’s partnership that affected around 15% of partners worldwide.

CC spent £59m on the 2008-09 restructuring and redundancy programme. The lion’s share – £53m – of the costs went on the partnership restructuring, with the staff cuts costing £6m.

Linklaters is currently in the midst of its second partnership restructuring in three years, with as many as 35 departures expected over the coming year.

At the height of the credit cruch in early 2009 the firm carried out a major redundancy consultation which saw around 120 lawyers and 150 business support staff affected.

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