Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Brighter Times Lie Ahead, Insist Leading Law Firms

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Brighter Times Lie Ahead, Insist Leading Law Firms

Article excerpt

Byline: Christopher Knox

THE North East's biggest law firms say they are confident of recovering after cutting more than 250 jobs among them in the past year.

Most of the region's larger firms, all in Newcastle, have responded to falling revenues by cutting jobs as the recession hit their corporate business and commercial property work.

Dickinson Dees has cut 150 of its 775 workers, Watson Burton axed 55 posts three weeks ago and 10 at the end of last year, Muckle LLP cut 14 jobs last July and Ward Hadaway axed 21 last September. But the firms say they are now confident they are in a strong position to weather the rest of the downturn.

New figures from Dickinson Dees which were published yesterday show its revenues fell only pounds 1m to pounds 52.4m in the year to the end of March and it said new offices in Leeds and London would continue to operate. It does not expect to cut any more jobs.

Managing partner Jonathan Blair said: "We are taking a cautious approach to 2009-10. We took some tough but necessary action last year to ensure we are in the best possible position going into this financial year."

Muckle is finalising its accounts for the year to March, but expects sales to be in line with the pounds 9m it recorded last year and said its commercial team had already completed 41 deals valued at pounds 129m this year.

Similarly, Watson Burton said it was "more positive about the market it works in than 12 months ago". It expects to post annual revenues in line with last year's pounds 23m.

The firm, which now has about 250 staff in the North East and small offices in London and Leeds, had planned to axe 75 jobs in March, but was able to reduce this to 55.

It now believes it has made sufficient cuts to see it through the recession and said it was closing in on a series of overseas contracts.

Watson Burton senior partner Rob Langley, who recently stood down from the management team, said: "We are now determined to look forward and take heart from the fact that many of our core activities, including property, are holding up better than some of our competitors'. …

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