Pandemic Hits NZ Law Firms as Major Firms Shed Staff

Pandemic Hits NZ Law Firms as Major Firms Shed Staff 2
Pandemic Hits NZ Law Firms as Major Firms Shed Staff 7

The COVID crisis has bitten law firms hard in some areas with two major law firms – Meredith Connell and Lane Neave – shedding staff.

Lane Neave has confirmed that 12 per cent of its staff, 21 lawyers and others, have been released as a result of the pandemic.

In large part the downturn in work at Queenstown has been behind the problems with Lane Neave.

“A careful process was undertaken with, and support has been provided to, affected staff members – and to their colleagues – through both internal and external sources,” Managing Partner Andrew Shaw told the NZ Herald.

The firm was also paying back $1.11 million in wage subsidies that it had taken for 162 employees.

Meredith Connell has also confirmed to BusinessDesk that it was making some redundancies but fewer than 2 per cent of its staff of 250.

Meredith Connell recently took over boutique Prestige Law, due to complete on 1 July.

Prestige Law specialises on cross-border litigation and dispute resolution work at also received over $118,000 in wage subsidies for its 18 staff.

LawFuel has been told that other redundancies are likely to occur in the near future from other firms with the downturn in work as a result of the pandemic, although some practices have also seen an upturn in work but have worked hard to trim overheads as the economy continues to adapt to the difficulties created by the pandemic.

Australian Layoffs

Australia is seeing a second way of layoffs which, like the New Zealand law firm situation, is hitting professionals.

Deloitte, one of the big four professional services firms, announced on Monday that it would lose 700 professional staff from its 10,000-strong Australian workforce.

And the business downturn there, as in New Zealand, has been largely due to compliance, mergers and related commercial work reducing substantially.

Last week PwC cut 400 staff from its 8,000 strong workforce, mainly from the consultancy and financial advisory division.

Major law firm Ashurst has cut partner draws by 20 per cent for six months and staff took pay cuts until July, with a similar cut in hours.

Other law firms have cut partner draws by up to 50 per cent and furloughed workers.

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