15 Jul 2020

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner to close Beijing office and cut up to 40 London staff

Job losses in UK capital part of 'targeted reductions' as firm-wide 15% pay cut is halved for remainder of year

Beijing ESB Professional; Shutterstock

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) is closing its Beijing office and implementing a round of job cuts, including 40 roles in London.

In a statement, the firm described the measures as ‘targeted reductions’ in the face of ‘continued economic uncertainty around the globe’.

However, at the same time, a 15% pay cut for all staff earning more than $40,000 has been reduced to 7.5% for the remainder of the year with the firm reporting a ‘stronger than expected’ first half of 2020.

The London cuts encompass 14 fee earners and 26 business services staff with the firm stating that a very small proportion of its global workforce will be impacted overall.

The firm’s Beijing office opened in 2013 and is the smallest of the firm’s three Asia branches with a partner and two associates currently listed as being based there.

The firm also has Asia offices in Hong Kong and Singapore. 

The firm’s co-chairs, Lisa Mayhew and Steve Baumer, said: “After exceeding performance expectations during the first half of this extraordinary year, we’re pleased to begin rolling back salary reductions necessitated during the worst of the pandemic conditions.

"Looking ahead, we plan to continue taking proactive steps to provide as much clarity as we can to all our colleagues and to ensure our firm is best positioned moving forward. While a difficult decision to make, we believe the limited adjustments to our workforce are in the best interest of our clients, our business, and our people for the long term.”

The Beijing closure makes BCLP the third major international law firm to withdraw from China’s capital city this year — in May Stephenson Harwood closed its small office as part of a review of its Asia strategy while Vinson & Elkins said it anticipated its office closing by the end of the year.

Two firms — Orrick and Osborne Clarke — have withdrawn from Hong Kong in 2020, while McDermott Will & Emery ended its on-the-ground presence in Asia when it called time on its Shanghai alliance.

The cuts to BCLP’s flagship London office follow a similar exercise by Reed Smith in June when it said fewer than 20 lawyers and 10 staff would be impacted by a ‘targeted redundancy process’ at its office in the UK capital, its largest office.

Top 25 UK firm DWF is also embarking on a UK redundancy programme among central services staff as part a cost-cutting programme designed to save £15m in the current financial year with 15-18 central services roles at risk.

The cost-cutting drive is also seeing it close its Brussels and Singapore arms as part of a review of its international operations that will see 60 jobs axed, including those of 13 partners.

Meanwhile, Ashurst announced this week that its reduced working scheme — under which staff have been asked to reduce their hours by 20% — would end on 31 July, as originally anticipated, although staff have been given the option of staying on the scheme.

Further reading

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