In general I believe that this is a much more sensible attitude to a downturn in business that the wholesale redundancy programmes preferred by some. I suspect that it is a indication that the recession has lasted longer than Cobbetts thought and that they have divested themselves of most of those who were already on some sort of list - either because their billing was not up to scratch or they were on some other way difficult to work with - and so now they are faced with people they really want to keep.
Cobbetts are to be congratulated for doing this, as are other firms who have gone down the same road. They are also to be congratulated for doing it publicly.
The sign of the really enlightened firm would be one who introduced this sort of flexible working ("we're doing this because we value the people who work for us..." said Michael Shaw, the Managing Partner at Cobbetts) when times were good - then there would be no doubt that they really valued their people.
Wishful thinking, perhaps.