Monday, 30 November 2009

Too Early to Tell?

I read "The Lawyer" this morning. It carried, as its main story on the web site, "Streamlined firms emerge from ashes of annus horribilis". I wasn't initially sure whether I was going to read a good news story or a bad news story, although I was fairly sure that "The Lawyer" would try for some sort of sensational take.

I've read the story a few times now. It is based on a table of "information" about law firms, which I reproduce here:

The table shows partial results for ten firms, although four have no data for the turnover in the first half of this year. Some of the data seems strange. Have Freshfields really only made 4 people redundant? As it turns out no - I quote from the same article:
The total number of partner resignations at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer - the only magic circle firm not to have had a substantial redundancy programme - was much lower at 14.
So which is it?

The ten firms show an average reduction in revenue (for those showing data), of about 10% or so. All in line with what the firms have been saying we should expect. My point is this - is this really news? I'm not convinced that this story was ready:

  1. Only 60% of the data was available
  2. The top 10 UK firms are only really representative of the top 10 firms - they certainly are not representative of the rest of the top 100, never mind the bulk of smaller UK firms
  3. The conclusion reached is that firm have performed much as expected
  4. Do redundancies equate to streamlining?
So far as the last point is concerned - my view is that the two are rarely the same. If the redundancy round has been a strategic decision rather than a knee-jerk reaction, and if the people chosen for redundancy are the worst performing over a period of time, then this could be thought of as streamlining. I suspect this has been the case in most of the top 10 since I like to think that this huge firms will be reasonably well run. My experience with other firms - both mid-sized and small - is that there was rarely this amount of though given to the process.

I'm not sure, too, that the story showed a pattern of streamlining leading to recovery - which is suggested in the title.

Come on people - we can all do better than this, surely? If it's too early to tell with regard to any recovery, please don't suggest otherwise.

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