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U.K. Lawyers Get the Message: 1-800-U-R-Fired

Imagine dialing into your voicemail and hearing a message that you've been terminated. That's how 14 trainee solicitors learned they wouldn't be receiving permanent offers from London-based global law firm Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, reports The Daily Mail. What's more, it wasn't even the partners who delivered the bad news -- they delegated the honor to human resource workers.

Not surprisingly, many criticized Freshfields' shabby treatment of the new lawyers, who spend two years in training. (Law is an undergraduate degree in the U.K. Becoming a solicitor involves a two-year traineeship with a law firm.) Said one observer quoted in the story:

Freshfields has nigh on 500 partners worldwide - it shouldn't have been beyond the firm’s wit to get a handful of them to deliver the news personally.

However, the firm defended the voicemails, saying:

Though not ideal, we were trying to get the information out as soon as possible. We did not want to take the chance of them hearing first from someone else..Those people that we have not retained received an ex-gratia payment. We feel it would not be appropriate to confirm the exact amount.

Apparently, those U.K. firms beset by hard times are responding much like their American counterparts, by offering stipends and deferred start dates. But it's hard to imagine a U.S. firm laying off lawyers by telephone. Perhaps lawyers at U.S. firms are more sensitive to laid-off lawyers' plights, but more likely, U.S. firms have become more sensitive about their reputations. After all, imagine the headlines at Above the Law.

And here's a bonus question: Do you think that a blog like Above the Law has had the effect of forcing firms to act more generously when implementing layoffs to avoid being e-shamed at the site?

Posted by Carolyn Elefant on June 12, 2009 at 02:52 PM | Permalink | Comments (2)


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