Slater and Gordon to cut around 7% of its Australian workforce following UK split-off

Slater and Gordon is to cut up to 7% of its Australian workforce as part of a recapitalisation plan agreed with its lenders to rebuild its shattered finances.

In an announcement to the Australian Stock Exchange (ASX) yesterday (12 September), the listed firm said it has started a redundancy consultation that affects approximately 7% of its Australian workforce. The cuts will not affect its UK operations.

The firm also implied that there could be office closures as part of the cost-cutting proposals.

“A number of office locations nationally are impacted, but the majority of our existing national office network will be maintained,” the statement read.

“The company believes that the implementation of a business-wide transformation plan, including cost reductions and structural changes, is necessary for the future sustainability of the Australian operations,” the statement concluded.

News of the cuts follows the 31 August announcement that the UK arm of the firm will be split from its Australian parent as part of the recapitalisation deal.

The UK operation is to be separated from the wider firm and transferred to a separate holding company that will be wholly owned by the firm’s senior lenders, led by New York hedge fund Anchorage Capital.

Slaters – which in 2007 became the first ever law firm to go public when it listed on the ASX – entered the UK market in 2012 with the £53.8m takeover of Russell Jones & Walker. This was followed by a flurry of acquisitions, culminating in the £637m acquisition of insurance company Quindell’s professional services arm in 2015.

However, the firm has since been beset by difficulties, and in August kicked off a strategic review of its UK business legal services function after significantly writing down the value of the UK business in February.

Last week, Legal Week reported that the firm had moved more than 40 of its UK partners out of its partnership in the last financial year, amid fears among partners that they could lose their capital if the firm went into administration.

Insurance firm BLM also confirmed that it is in talks to acquire Slaters’ UK business legal services team.

Total revenue for the 2016-17 financial year fell 33% from A$908.2m to A$611.5m, with the firm reporting a $546.8m loss for the year ending 30 June 2017.

Fee and service revenue for the firm’s UK arm plummeted 31% from A$230m to A$157.8m, which the firm attributed to “the reduction in size of business following the business rationalisation programme”. The firm has already reduced UK headcount by 20% and closed at least 18 of its 48 UK offices.