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Crisis makes lawyers redundant

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Being a barrister in an international law firm is no longer such a dream come true as it used to be in the past years. Big companies have started getting rid of employees and reducing their pay. So the barristers might as well forget the generous bonuses of the past years.

“We have noticed that the big international agencies or branches of foreign firms are lowering salaries,” said Iva Chaloupková, spokeswoman of the Czech Bar Association. The law firm Linklaters, for example, left the Czech market altogether a couple of months ago.

Many apply for jobs
Laid-off barristers apply for jobs with competing firms. “It is true that the job market now offers more articled clerks with work experience and even more experienced barristers,” said Tomáš Nielsen from law firm Rowan Legal.

According to information available to Hospodářské noviny, just like abroad, the biggest “purges” in the country are taking place in companies like Nörr Stiefenhofer Lutz, Clifford Chance and White & Case. The barristers who are not laid off and are not a partner in the firm will often have their salaries reduced by dozens of percent.

Law firms do not want to comment on the situation so far. “These are confidential information that we do not publish,” said Lukáš Horák from Clifford Chance. White & Case admits only to the “exchange of the specialists in the departments that have fewer work at the moment”.

The financial crisis is the reason. Today, clients demand different services from barristers than they used to couple of months ago. Fusions and acquisitions that used to be the main source of income for law firms are being replaced by work at courts and in arbitration and insolvency. Firms often hire specialists in these particular spheres.

Law firms also had to lower their prices significantly. “Clients are unwilling to accept bonuses reaching EUR 400 per hour and that is what some law firms used to charge for their services,” said Lukáš Trojan from firm KŠD Šťovíček.

The most common discount to be noticed at the moment is a drop of the hourly fee from CZK 7,000 by even a half.

“We are trying to suit our clients with our policies and so we take into account the current macroeconomic conditions and we try to be competitive,” said Dagmar Lučenicová from White & Case.

Bonuses are over
Barristers can also forget the rich bonuses they were used to even in the last year. Even the representatives of the local law firms remain without bonuses. “We do not hire new people, we did not raise the salaries like we used to in the past years and we did not pay out bonuses for 2008,” said Ondřej Peterka from Peterka & Partners and added that bonuses used to constitute 20% of the annual salary.

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