Webb Ross Lawyers cuts jobs

Webb Ross Lawyers - one of the biggest law firms in Northland with an Employer of the Year title - has been laying off staff, including two lawyers.

"Top people," partner Stuart Spicer said mournfully, explaining how the redundancies had been distressing for the people who lost their jobs and those left behind.

A law firm reducing staff shows serious contraction of the Northland economy - particularly in the real estate business - and indicates the 6700 out of work in the region in the September quarter may not all be young or have blue collars.

Mr Spicer said Whangarei-based Webb Ross wasn't the only firm which had to adapt to a drop in the property market.

"We know through our connections throughout the country that this is a general issue," he said.

"We look at the people we deal with - other professionals, developers, individuals buying and selling houses, individuals doing other business - and most of them have got less cash to spend.

"Clearly this is going to impact on all service providers, and it has on us."

Mr Spicer said he knew of other Northland law firms, accountants, surveyors and engineers affected by the current lull in property transactions and business activity who had laid staff off.

And he showed the Northern Advocate an article in the NZLawyer magazine examining the effects of the "barely alive property and commercial market" on three mid-sized law firms - Brookfields, Glaister Ennor and James & Wells.

"Webb Ross has had to look at the way it handles work. Not to do so would mean getting left behind," Mr Spicer said.

Like the law firms in the magazine article and "lots of professional practices", the Whangarei lawyers were changing, becoming nimble and flexible as they adapted to market conditions.

NZ Law Society communications manager Geoff Adlam, of Wellington, said there were huge variations in the situations of the 11,500 lawyers around the country and, although he had heard of staff layoffs, it was difficult to pinpoint concrete examples.

Source: Northern Advocate