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by Vault Law Editors | February 25, 2009

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As many employers turn to salary freezes, pay cuts and other cost-cutting measures in an effort to avoid layoffs, The Lawyer on a trend among some British law firms to offer reduced hours as an alternative to redundancies. Last month, London-based firm Charles Russell and Gloucester-based BPE Solicitors offered lawyers the option of a four-day workweek (though Charles Russell is still undergoing redundancy consultations).

That many employees—though not all—offered a choice between pocketing a smaller paycheck or receiving a pink slip would opt for the pay cut is not terribly surprising. After all, not everyone is eager to join the breadline or indulge in the “Feed Yourself Challenge.”

What is more surprising is that some lawyers in Britain are offering to reduce their own pay to save other people’s jobs. Employees at the regional firm Mills & Reeve helped save some 25 jobs by volunteering to work shorter weeks or take sabbaticals. Such altruistic gestures aren’t always welcomed: firm management reportedly rejected an offer by a group of employees at Denton Wilde Sapte to cut their own salaries to save colleagues’ positions. But I have yet to hear of similar offers made by associates at American firms—which, of course, doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened (indeed, please write in to prove me wrong).

Moreover, one might argue that, when the ship is going down, the good old American every-man-for-himself approach is more successful (albeit less civilized) than politely queuing up for the lifeboat.

- posted by vera

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