There’s been a lot of understandable sympathy for workers who have been furloughed or lost their jobs because of COVID-19; shopworkers, waiters, physiotherapists, flight attendants and many more face uncertain futures. Lawyers on the other hand don’t get quite so much sympathy, being up there with bankers and estate agents in the list of professions we love to hate.

But many lawyers have been badly hit by the pandemic. Staff at Simmons & Simmons have been asked to take a 20% pay cut and move to a four-day week. International firm Reed Smith has announced plans to lay off lawyers and staff in its London office, citing the ‘prolonged economic uncertainty’ caused by the pandemic. Pay cuts, shorter weeks and furloughing are common across the sector. Trainee solicitors due to qualify in September still haven’t been told whether they will be kept on.

Over the next few weeks my colleague, Shakila Ahmed, and I will be posting a number of short articles aimed at helping the legal profession navigate through this crucial period.  I will be looking at some of the employment issues facing both legal staff and employers: making redundancies during Furlough Leave; reductions in pay and working hours; restrictive covenants; working at home. Shakila will be looking at the Partnership issues: is this an opportunity to review your Partnership Agreement? Are you being treated fairly under the agreement?

Legal firms and their employees are facing a lot of difficult decisions. Sometimes they are too close to the problem and need to take a step back. We will point out the potential pitfalls as you make these decisions and help you mitigate the potential risks.