Norton Rose Protects Its Employees

Posted on March 12, 2009 at 8:03 PM

We have mentioned before that law firms are becoming increasingly creative in how they deal with the decrease in output and an increase in restructuring (which has become quite synonymous with layoffs). However, Norton Rose is a unique example, considering what it has done to ride out the recession.

The British law firm has proposed to cut down to a four-day week for all staff, which may be accompanied by a paid sabbatical that lasts four to 12 weeks. The four-day week option would allow staff to earn 85 percent of their salary while the sabbatical would pay out 30 percent. Individual staff salary cuts would be capped at 20 percent of their annual pay.

Essentially Norton Rose is trying to prevent redundancies, which is not only rare for a UK law firm but a law firm in general. The proposal is awaiting approval from staff this month, and if approved, it will be in effect starting May 1, 2009.

“This is something that we have been working on for some time and we thought it would be sensible to get something so that we don’t have to do down the redundancy route. We feel it is prudent to have something in place so that we can try to safeguard jobs next year... The key for us is to ensure that we can respond rapidly to any future changes in levels of work and that is why we have worked on this strategy. We see an advantage in maintaining our reputation as good employers,” Norton Rose chief executive Peter Martyr recently told Legal Week.

We think it’s a sound strategy, but it does have its disadvantages. Will the firm be able to outlast the recession like this and still maintain its reputation as a top law firm and top employer? Time will tell.

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