One in ten Scottish lawyers face the axe


By Oliver Farrimond

ONE in ten Scottish lawyers have lost their jobs as a result of the recession.

Leading law firms such as Dundas and Wilson have been forced to cut up to fifty staff at a time as cash flow has dried up.

Jobs have been hit across the profession, with experienced legal experts and trainees alike facing the axe.

There are an estimated 8000 lawyers in private practice in Scotland.

Lorna Jack, head of the Law Society in Scotland, described the situation as “extremely worrying”.

She said: “Members of the Law Society have been telling me to a person that they cannot remember ever being in a situation as bad as this one.”

“This is definitely the worst of any recessions – the money is just not around.”

Prominent law firms Shepherd & Wedderburn and Brodies have also recently announced job cuts, with dozens of staff facing the threat of redundancy.

The collapse of the housing market and the resulting downturn has seen previously healthy sources of revenue completely dry up.

Wealthy clients are resorting to managing their own accounts to save cash, and legal partners are having to bail out firms with their own money.

Jack said: “It’s not unheard of for partners to be asked for more cash to sustain their firms.

“They’re having to make business decisions that they have never had to make before.”

The threat of redundancy facing Scots solicitors is not expected to lift until the economic climate improves.

In the meantime, the Law Society has encouraged lawyers to work pro-bono, or for voluntary organisations in order to maintain their skills.

Special hotlines have even been set up for legal trainees who are fearing for their future.

Jack said that she was “very worried” about trainees who have just started posts at struggling firms.

Trainee solicitor Alistair Wrench, 23, said that it was a worrying time to be training as a lawyer.

He said: “You hope that everything will be fine, but at the back of your mind you do worry that there won’t be a job at the end of it.”

Recruitment companies have also set up special programs to help solicitors re-train to find work in different sectors.

John Denholm, managing director of recruitment firm Denholm Associates, said that a large number of those made redundant could struggle to find work.

He said: “To a lot of them, preparing a curriculum vitae is a complete mystery.”