Fasken Martineau DuMoulin LLP, one of Canada's largest law firms, is set to slash most of the jobs in its large London office while shutting down its smaller outpost in Paris completely, but it says the retrenchment is not a sign of any broader financial woes.
A spokeswoman for the 770-lawyer firm said managing partner Peter Feldberg was flying back to Canada after spending the week in the British capital, breaking the news that the firm intends to "refocus" on natural resource deals and let go most of its lawyers and staff there.
Under British law, the firm says, before any final decisions are made, it must begin a consultation on the layoffs at the office, which now has around 80 people, including about 20 partners.
Brenda Plowman, Faskens chief marketing officer, said in an interview that up to 70 London staff in total could be affected.
"We're not shutting our London office, but we are actually refocusing it. And we are refocusing it in terms of the resource sector, and those areas we are really very good at and very strong at, and where we have an international platform," Ms. Plowman said in an interview.
She said the move to shutter the Paris office was a decision made by the firm's board in March, and was unrelated to the proposed cuts in London.
The firm's 12-lawyer Paris office, opened after a merger with a French firm in 2009, was launched when the global economy was reeling from the financial crisis and many other firms were retrenching.
It was supposed to focus on African mining deals. But the mining industry has been in a slump. Several lawyers have reportedly already left the office. Ms. Plowman said the Paris office will be completely shut down by the end of November.
The word of the cuts emerged on U.S. legal industry websites on Friday after word of the meetings in London leaked out.
Ms. Plowman said the retreats in London and Paris were not signs of distress at Faskens as a whole.
"Last year was our best year ever in the firm. So we're really solid," she said. "But there are some good strategic decisions … that the board is taking and they are really focusing on our strengths and taking some good decisions for the long-term health of the firm."
She would not discuss any profit numbers, or whether profits in London or Paris had fallen off. She said numbers quoted in London-based websites were not accurate.
Ms. Plowman said the firm's Montreal office has a strong French Africa practice. She said the London office had a "broader platform" with a variety of areas of law, and would now focus solely on natural resources and deals in that sector.
Faskens has grown rapidly in recent years after merging with a London firm to launch its office there in 2006. Faskens merged with South African firm Bell Dewar to establish a larger presence on that continent in 2013 – a presence also aimed at the mining sector.
The word of the cuts first emerged on British legal industry websites on Friday. Ms. Plowman said the firm's managing partner, Mr. Feldberg, met with each lawyer in the London office in a "one-on-one" format to deliver the news.
"We are strongly committed to the continued success of our international clients," Mr. Feldberg was quoted as saying in a statement issued by the firm. "This refocusing is consistent with that commitment."