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A ‘Difficult Day’ at DLA Piper as Firm Plots 200 Layoffs

May 11, 2016, 6:25 PM

DLA Piper announced Wednesday it plans to lay off up to 200 business support jobs in the U.K., with Leeds and Sheffield most affected.

“Today is a difficult day,” said Andrew Darwin, chief operating officer at DLA Piper. “We know that, however hard we try, it will be difficult for individuals.”

The 200 “proposed” reductions will affect IT, finance, HR, marketing and business development, and secretarial teams in the firm’s seven U.K. offices. Those positions will be transitioned to the firm’s back office operations in Warsaw.

In total, the U.K. layoffs are expected to affect 18 percent of the firm’s overall staff of 1,100 support professionals, and to take place between October 2016 and the end of 2017.

The layoffs are described as “proposed” because U.K. law requires DLA Piper to communicate the cuts to affected employees and work with them regarding their exit packages, according to Darwin.

“It’s designed to try to protect jobs and give employees influence in how proposals are actually structured, and we respect that,” Darwin said. “It requires you to pause and to consult with your affected employees.”

The cuts are not expected to directly affect lawyers, but secretaries have close relationships with partners. They tie into a modernization plan and were implemented with consultation from McKinsey & Co.

Darwin said that the reductions are designed to improve efficiency around functions that have required manual labor. Now, he said the firm will implement digital, automated systems to carry out tasks such as filing expenses and vetting job candidates.

“We are a little embarrassed by the fact that we are still pushing paper around the world,” said Darwin. “It hasn’t been a priority before.”

Darwin said the firm plans to change its recruiting process: Previously, an outside agency would bring in CVs that a staff member would review. Now, a digital system will store CVs electronically.

The firm plans to use Taleo, an Oracle product that stores recruiting data. “We wanted to remove some of that administration from people who you want to be engaged in high level tasks in the HR function.”

The end goal is to have staff members working on “higher value tasks and not doing routine process tasks,” said Darwin.

DLA Piper, with 3,756 lawyers around the world, brought in $2.54 billion in revenue in 2015, a 2.5 percent increase from the previous year, according to this year’s American Lawyer financial rankings.

Darwin declined to specify cost savings that the firm would gain from the reduction. He described exit packages as “generous” and well above the “standard minimum” required of employers. He also said that staff would be provided with counseling to help them find another job.

“We believe the market for these people in the U.K. is pretty good.”

Click here for more details on where the proposed layoffs are expected to hit.