Largest law firm in the world asks staff to work four-day week in wake of pandemic

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Dentons follows Norton Rose Fulbright in implementing voluntary flexible working arrangements

The largest law firm in the world by lawyer headcount is asking all of its UK staff to drop down to a four-day working week in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Dentons‘ UK and Middle East (UKME) arm is calling on staff to agree to “flexible reduced work patterns” for six months from 1 June. The voluntary scheme will consist of four-day weeks, or other equivalent patterns, with a 20% reduction in salary.

The firm also said partner distributions will be deferred, and partner drawings will be reduced by 20% for six months. They will, however, continue with full working weeks.

Dentons confirmed a number of employees who were unable to work remotely, or who operate in teams where full capacity is not required, had been furloughed until 31 May. The firm is topping up their salaries to 100%.

“The impact of the pandemic could be longer or shorter, deeper or shallower than we currently anticipate,” UK and Middle East CEO Jeremy Cohen said. “While our work patterns have held up reasonably well so far, all the economic indicators point towards an unprecedented contraction of global GDP over the coming months. We are therefore taking these pre-emptive measures as the most prudent course of action.”

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The news comes just over a week after staff at Norton Rose Fulbright voted in favour of similar temporary measures that could see some of them work reduced hours and take a 20% pay cut for one year. This, the firm said, was part of “pre-emptive action” to protect jobs and revenues throughout the virus pandemic.

Separately, Travers Smith today confirmed it too had deferred partner profit distributions and reduced monthly drawings with immediate effect.

It has also furloughed a small number of staff, “principally those performing front of house, post room and hospitality roles which could no longer be performed as a result of the requirement to close the office”. The staff, who will continue to receive 100% of their salaries, have not been placed into the government’s job retention scheme.

Travers Smith’s managing partner David Patient commented:

“These measures are interim and precautionary. Our main priorities are to protect the health, wellbeing and job security of our people, and to continue to stand with and provide our full support to the firm’s clients and their businesses during these difficult times.”

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Can someone please explain the difference between partner drawings and partner distributions?



Drawings usually take place quarterly and, whilst variable and partly dependent on the performance of the team and firm in the previous quarter, are supposed to provide partners with a regularly income that will be sufficient to support them.

Distributions take place annually and wholly depend on the perform of the firm. Assuming it is a full equity partnership, each partner’s slice of the pie will depend on how many “partnership points” they have. For example – there may be 100 partner points in total. Billy Big Bollocks has 20 points. The other 9 partners have 10 points. If £5m total profit is earmarked for partner distribution then Billy Big Bollocks gets £1m and the other partners get £500k.



The numbers don’t work Wayne. You have f*cked it. Also, I think you meant to type “performance” the first sentence of the second paragraph. Good explanation otherwise though.



“largest law firm in the world”

Sounds pretty top, do they pay phat dolla stacks too?






The hidden elephant in the room is that for all the grandstanding about 20% pay cuts and commensurate reductions in work days to save jobs, every fee earner at Dentons (and NRF who did the same) knows it’s utter horsec*ck.

Any associate who dares to be unavailable on the “off” day will promptly have a black mark put above their name and be given the boot at the earliest available opportunity. It’s a pay cut plain and simple, and the assets will continue to be sweated as much as possible 5+ days a week as before.




Pretty shameful it’s not staggered by earnings bracket either, shafts lower earners in a firm already barely paying market rate



Any news on CMS?



Still a shite firm.



Thx bruv.


Does anyone know what (if any) measures might be taken at Latham or Kirkland? (or if anything has even been discussed?)


Kirkland NQ

Let’s just say I’m trying to decide if to get my new Aventador S in a nice shade of Giallo Evros or a more ostentatious Verde Ithaca.


Doc Schwartz

Who let this deranged cretin out of its cage again? Nurse!



Catch me if you can.



Many people are on the way out, yet don’t expect any official announcement about it!



LC helpfully deleted all comments providing further details into “stealth layoffs”. Must be the result of plenty of grease on Alex’s palms,,,



I don’t understand all these references to LC deleting comments to appease sponsors. Aren’t comments moderated? The fact that you saw them in the first place suggests that LC agreed to publish them, and it seems unlikely that sponsors are taking issue with individual comments on a sufficiently regular basis to justify the level of discussion of comment deletions on here.



Hi Alex.

Not Kirkland NQ

Kirkland more impacted than Latham, for obvious reasons.


Showround @ Bakers

Honestly thought Dentons was a high street firm this whole time. Who knew they had high street office in the Middle East too.

Could be worse, they could be CMS.



Dentons = equivalent to McDonald’s, just opening new stores/offices worldwide and lack of quality



Oh look this boring comment again



You do realise that “=” means “equal to/equivalent to”, so need for the symbolic and the word delineations. With such a keen grasp of the fundamental principles of the English language, I assume you actually work for McDonald’s and have some kind of axe to grind about Dentons plagiarising your franchise model?


LLB 2nd year

Why all the hate on Dentons? They seem like a perfectly decent firm doing pretty big ticket work, paying market salaries (£75k at NQ is hardly a small wedge) and with offices all over the globe they’re bound to have amazing secondment opportunities.


Kirkland NQ

Poor thing, you’ll learn. £75k at NQ is barely enough to survive on. Imagine having to drink non vintage Krug and visit wine bars that aren’t in Sloane Square or it’s immediate surrounds? That’s not a real life.


Psych Eval

Meanwhile you’re sitting in your bedsit in Catford, desperately trying to type down all that the lecturer is saying on your first year LLB online Admin Law lecture, straining your ears over the tin-sounding speakers on your £199.99 Acer laptop from PC World. Tears are running down your face, you haven’t eaten anything but ASDA Basics beans and soggy toast, exams are coming soon and you know nothing, asking yourself why me why this why God


Old Money

The giveaway here that you’re an oik is that you think ‘real’ wine bars are near Sloane Sq, because it has the word ‘Sloane’ in it.

Of course you’ve never heard of Cannes, Macau, Manhattan, Zurich or Milan.


Mr. Soros

Tell the rabble how it really is, my fellow plutocrat. Tally ho!

Not a wine bar in SQ

I thought the same when I read that he wrote wine bars in Sloane Square lol


i doubt they have enough work to keep the lawyers busy 5 days a week hence the 4 day a week thing so unlikely lawyers are going to need to respond and work on their new day off. They could also take a week off in every 5.


Patrick B

Essentially partner distributions are bonus payments and partner drawings are monthly income


Confused NQ

Are the equity partner cuts being equivalent or most significant than employee cuts not a bit of a fallacy? If an equity partner’s monthly drawings are reduced by 20%, does that ‘untaken’ drawing not just sit in the firm‘s bank account until it’s ready for distribution to that equity partner at a later date (obviously if profits allow and probably subject to some tax)? And given their distribution entitlements depend on profits, won’t they be benefiting by employees agreeing to 20% salary cuts? And are the employee salary cuts not just a way of preserving cash in the business so they can make the redundancy payments in 3-6 months when inevitably activity levels will still be low? I appreciate the pandemic will hit their profit distributions because fee income will decrease but slightly sceptical about the whole ‘equity partners are voluntarily taking the biggest hit’ line. I’m sure I’m getting this wrong and/or missing something though so please educate me…



No, you got it right; that is how it works. I think all firms need to lay off ‘the woe is me’ rhetoric around Equity Partners; and everyone should be aware that any money not spent on staff goes directly to the Equity Partners (and HMRC). A shame that in good times, they don’t reward staff and are happy to take record pay, while in bad times the staff need to pitch in and act like business owners to keep profit margins up. I’d rather redundancies from the off.


Not naive

Love how they say “voluntary”. Try and say no and boy will they strong arm you and then kick your butt out of there the first chance they get


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