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Norton Rose Fulbright asks lawyers to work four-day week in response to virus crisis

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Global giant adopted similar measures during 2008-9 financial crisis

Norton Rose Fulbright’s London office

Norton Rose Fulbright has asked its lawyers to drop down to a four-day working week in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, in a move reminiscent of its response to the financial crisis more than a decade ago.

The global giant confirmed “eligible personal” may be asked to work reduced hours and take a 20% pay cut in “pre-emptive action” to protect jobs and revenues throughout the virus crisis. Those on lower salaries may also see a reduction in their working week by 20% but on pay reductions of between 5% and 20%.

Over 75% of staff need to volunteer for the programme for it to be “economically viable”, NRF said, and it will remain in place for a year. It will apply in offices in Europe, Middle East and Asia (EMEA), and employee benefits will remain unaffected.

The criteria used to determine which volunteers will be selected to work reduced hours will be based on the needs of the business and will be assessed on a departmental and team basis.

“In this current crisis, we believe it is prudent to take pre-emptive action to protect our people and our business”, managing partner Peter Scott said. “The key for us is to ensure that we can respond rapidly to any future changes in levels and types of work at an unprecedented time for the global economy.”

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He continued:

“We know this is a challenging time for all of our people and we want to safeguard jobs as far as possible. It is likely that not all parts of the business will be adversely affected by the current situation, so it is quite possible that employees who have signed up to the scheme in some parts of the business will not be required to reduce their working hours.”

In addition to reduced hours, the firm will defer the distribution of partner profits and bonuses, and delay salary rises and bonus payments for staff.

NRF — which adopted a similar reduced hours programme back in 2009 in an attempt to mitigate the impact of the global financial crisis — isn’t the first firm to tighten its belt in response to COVID-19.

Allen & Overy confirmed earlier this week it was introducing a raft of “prudent management measures”, including upping partner capital levels, deferring certain investments and recruitment, and cancelling events. It also confirmed it had scrapped upcoming annual salary reviews.

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34 Comments

Little Old Litigator Me

Poor PE dealmakers. They can come and help my paralegals put together all those bundles for the next few years.

Kirkland NQ

Wrong! A wise man said about private equity recently – “while doctors are working tonight to save people’s lives, we are working tonight to save people’s jobs.”

Anonymous

Bless, Kirkland NQ was not still in shorts in 2009….

Kirkland NQ

In shorts behind the wheel of a Lambo, tearing around the streets of the Côte d’Azur.

AD

So it begins…….

Showround @ Bakers

Always thought of NRF as the black sheep of the consortium firms. A glorified DLA Piper/Eversheds/CMS. Terrible to read this however especially as it’s most definitely the case that despite the pay cut most will not be working four days a week but the usual five instead.

Hopefully no one gets cut.

NRF > CMS anytime

Lmao a glorified CMS but pulling in a whole lot phatter whack than you poor shet peasants

Angus

CMS is top

CMShet

Yeah, no.

Jake

They really aren’t. One a transaction opposite them right now. They’ve been poor and have been giving their clients (who, to be fair, are also poor) bad advice.

Showround @ Bakers

You bring up CMS as if that’s my firm and I care about it. Typical low IQ NRFer incapable of reading – you probably thought that 20% pay cut was an increase

NRF topboi

Lmao yeh sure, good luck at CMS blud

Showround @ Bakers

Rofl, the state of you NRF numpties, given how many of you there are out in the comments today I imagine today is the “day off” you’ve sacrificed 20% of your measly wage for. Glorified DLA Piper/Eversheds/CMS was an insult aimed both at the thing you guys have the audacity to call a law firm and DLA Piper, Eversheds and CMS. That you can’t work that out explains why you’re working at NRF to begin with

Sinn Dwayne

Pffft this is nothing. I remember hard hats in the office during the IRA days.

welllll sh*t

A&O “deferring recruitment”? Sounds like anyone with a TC / trying to get a TC is about to be royally f*cked.

Lol

Misinformed c*unt – check your facts before you post shit here

JDP

Lmao back to your LLB virtual learning portal son.

Anonymous

Lol and Tim should organise a Zoom meeting for those with anger issues.

Anon

Big business isn’t protected either – couple Fortune 500 clients are doing the same up to 20% pay cut across staff.

Anyways, the real shame is the associates that are cut down to “4 day” weeks for the 20% pay cut will in reality still be expected to work the exact same amount of hours if not more. Any lawyer who tries otherwise will be hung out to dry on the first post-pandemic performance review. This hasn’t happened at my firm yet but I’m certain it will.

How this is all handled will determine whether I leave private practice in autumn. I suggest all the juniors here keep their eye on their firms’ behaviour over the coming weeks and consider options.

Anon

I think moving in-house will be tricky for a while.

Once the economy cranks up again, businesses will look to rebuild their cash base, which usually means doing as much business as possible whilst spending only essential costs.

For law firms, employed lawyers are an essential cost. No lawyers, no revenue.

For any other business, employed lawyers are a nice to have, not a necessity.

As a current in-houser, I’m a bit nervy.

Anonymous

In-housers can show how much more expensive outsourcing is and push to the external legal spend.

Anon

You’re assuming that legal spend, external or internal, is essential. It isn’t for most companies.

If you sell software, for example, you need software developers and sales staff. That’s it. Finance, Legal, HR, Marketing etc. are all extraneous to the core business.

Anon

Laughably untrue – any business can cock-up due to a lack of good legal advice. I’ve worked in-house for a company selling machinery. Loads of issues cropped up even doing something as simple as that: sanctions, export financing, non-paying customers in crazy jurisdictions. I saved my employer about a 100 times what they paid me.

In-house pleb

It’s almost like you have no clue what you are talking about, yet persist in spouting rubbish. Legal spend for a company is necessary, it is not and has never been a nice to have, and always has to be justified to the CFO and CEO. The question a company will ask is whether it is better to have a mid-level lawyer in-house on £80-£120k a year plus bonus and benefits, or instruct external counsel. That will depend on the activity of the business (any new ventures recently, are there any big disputes on the horizon, is there a push for tenders in a new work stream) and also the culture of the business (do people in the business know what to do, are there commercial directors that are clued up, or are the majority of people in the company idiots that need hand holding and cannot write a sentence in English).

No one is suggesting a law firm will get rid of all its lawyers, as your stupid comment above suggested. What we are saying is that law firms are dependent on clients and the market for work. If the work slows down, there is less need for X number of lawyers so they can reduce the number of lawyers they have. The revenue of the law firm affects the number of lawyers. In-house lawyer numbers are not tied so closely to business revenue, rather they have to make a business case as a department to show that they are saving the business money, and in some cases making the business money through claims and supporting new business ventures. Slightly more shielded, although of course there is still that risk if a business shrinks significantly, the number of lawyers needed will decrease.

Anon (OP)

Sensible comment. Although given my current practice area I would either go in-house in a sector that is expected to be one of the first to bounce back, and usually is following global economic disasters, or into a quasi-legal risk consultancy role.

I have a few mates that made a lateral move to consulting in a sector they specialised in as lawyers, and they seem to really enjoy the increased variety of work. They work just as hard as me if not harder but I am still secretly envious of their work. Grass is always greener and all that.

SW

Having been in the banking sector during the financial crisis, and also been on the receiving end of redundancy, I think what this firm is doing to try and retain staff and not have to make redundancies in this unprecedented time is quite refreshing. Yes it isn’t great for anyone to have to take a pay cut, but what’s the alternative, leave a role and find another when no other firms are recruiting..?! Businesses need a break too, and this firm obviously knows what they are doing having done it before. Everyone needs to work together and support each other. Theres enough negativity in the world right now, let’s come together and pull through this crisis as a nation!

Jezza

Brothers! Sisters!

This coronavirus will allow us to transition to a social solutions! It will be an end to capitalism, just like 2008!

If you are an unemployed trainee, perhaps join your local Momentum branch! They help with knitting yoghurts, social activism, penpal activities with Somalian tribesmen, and solidarity with Palestinian youth!

An end to City greed! Down with metropolitan elites!

VOTE LABOUR!

FOR THE MANY, NOT THE FEW!

Go

This is a great move. NRF did this back in 2008-9. They were one of the few firms that didn’t slash all their staff. 4 day working week will mean staff keep their jobs

Michael

Except that actually they defer redundancy costs until they cans afford them …

Anon

Well done to Norton Rose by attempting to save people’s jobs and not cultivating slash and burn tactics which no doubt other firms will employ

Michael

Naive – they will just do it later, with less publicity, like last time …

Pascal

I do love a girl with a northern accent.

Anonz

Up from what?

Anon

Does the 4 day week apply to the trainees too?

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