Hogan Lovells restructures UK operations with 90 roles cut or moved to Johannesburg and Birmingham

Hogan Lovells is restructuring its UK operations in a move that will see about 90 London roles cut or moved to Johannesburg and Birmingham.

The review will affect about 78 business services roles and 12 legal support positions, which will either be cut or transferred to the firm’s business services centres in Johannesburg and Birmingham, both of which were launched in 2014.

A consultation process has begun today (18 September) with London employees whose roles will be affected. The firm expects that “the vast majority” of the roles will be moving, with around two thirds of those roles transferring to Johannesburg, but declined to specify whether everyone affected is being offered the choice of moving to either Johannesburg or Birmingham.

The restructuring will affect all business services functions, including conflicts and compliance, finance, IT, knowledge and research, marketing and BD and office services, while the legal support roles cover the firm’s cost office, litigation support, professional support lawyers and trademark paralegals. Lawyers, other legal support teams and PAs are unaffected.

Hogan Lovells’ Johannesburg centre employs about 110 staff in areas including conflicts, finance, marketing, and business development and technology, while the Birmingham base currently has in the region of 70 employees.

Hogan Lovells said the decision has been taken as part of a move to “build on the firm’s increased use of advanced technologies and legal project management”.

Deputy CEO David Hudd said: “This is part of our strategy to evolve our firm so it continues to meet our business needs as well as those of our clients in a rapidly changing and highly competitive market. We are fully committed to ensuring that our people are treated fairly and are fully supported throughout this process.” Hogan Lovells launched its Birmingham legal services centre in 2014, with a 20-lawyer team initially put together to carry out lower-end work delegated from London, such as due diligence and document review. Earlier that year, the firm also announced it was launching a business services centre in Johannesburg to focus on conflict checks, due diligence and research.

Last year, these bases were supplemented by the launch of a $9m global business services centre in Louisville, Kentucky, handling billing, technology support and conflict checks.

UK and Africa regional managing partner Susan Bright added: “This is the logical next step to take in the development of our practice in the UK. In Johannesburg we have built a very well-integrated team which partners with our other global business services centre in Louisville.

“Since opening our Birmingham office we have built a consistently profitable and strong qualified lawyer and paralegal capability, handling increasingly complex cross-jurisdictional corporate and commercial, litigation, real estate, and real estate finance, as well as our Legal Delivery Centre, which specialises in large due diligence and document review exercises, handling major projects for clients in the UK and around the world. This step involves us expanding Birmingham to provide an alternative UK base for business services.

“Birmingham, Johannesburg and Louisville are great assets and we are now increasing the range of services offered from each, capitalising on our successful investments in technology and legal project management.”

In addition to the UK restructuring, Hogan Lovells is also offering voluntary redundancy to US business services staff who have been at the firm for more than five years.

The firm said this is partly in response to requests it has had from a number of business services members to undertake early retirement, adding it enabled the firm “to look again at our business services roles and where we deliver those services from… to give us an opportunity to accelerate how we deliver our business services operations in the U.S. and globally.”

The restructuring comes after magic circle firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer offered voluntary redundancy to all of its London secretarial staff at the beginning of the year, a move that was expected to affect roughly 180 individuals.

All of the magic circle firm’s London PAs were offered a choice to either: take voluntary redundancy; apply to be considered for a better-paid executive assistant role with increased responsibility; or stay in their current roles.

Meanwhile, last week Pinsent Masons kicked off a redundancy consultation affecting all of its UK legal personal assistants at risk, with up to 100 jobs set to go. The consultation is set to be completed by the end of November.

This August, UK firm BLM cut 50 jobs among its secretarial and direct support staff, following a redundancy consultation that launched in June.