Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Making Support Departments Redundant

As hundreds of lawyers across the UK and US face redundancy as a result of the economic fun and games, what of the support staff?

DLA this week announced over one hundred support staff were to be let go, and the firm is just the latest in a number of major and mid tier firms to make such announcements.

Don't put your head in the sand on this one. Casualties in Knowledge Management, Finance and Information Technology departments are common, with numerous mid tier firms even looking to off load expensive and/or under performing department directors in the past two weeks. Knowledge Management is well and truly in the firing line.

We expect to see many firms combining Knowledge departments with either Learning, Human Resources, Information Technology or Marketing departments and having the combined entity fall under one umbrella (and one director's salary rather than two).

Firms to lead the way in this 'combined' approach include Freshfields and Linklaters who both wrapped Knowledge Management into other departments during early 2008, while APAC leaders such as Blake Dawson have walked the talk very successfully for many years with a combined approach to Knowledge and Information Technology under the expert guidance of Chrissy Burns.

Expect numerous partnerships to now look at these early adopters and translate this into the new world of cost saving options.

Be aware that now is the time to perform or role is safe in professional support. Almost all support without exception are (rightly or wrongly) considered expendable and/or eventually replaceable by the fee earning side of some businesses.

As the crunch continues to squeeze firms, and second round redundancies now being considered common occurrences, not even the leaders of the support departments should be considering themselves safe - particularly in the softer areas of professional support where value is often not as tangible or visible as some of the other more traditional areas.

Consolidation of support departments looks to be upon us.

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