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

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By Thomas Connelly on

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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