Dentons Offers Early Retirement, Flips Some Virus Cuts

By Kevin Penton
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Law360 (September 11, 2020, 9:50 PM EDT) -- Dentons is offering older business professionals and paralegals in the U.S. who have been with the firm at least 15 years the chance to retire early, as it partially rolls back several austerity measures instituted in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the firm confirmed on Friday.

A Dentons spokeswoman was not able to confirm Friday whether Dentons is offering specific incentives to entice the employees — who must be age 62 or older by the end of 2020 — to participate in the program.

Dentons' economic performance during the first eight months of the year gave firm officials the confidence to partially roll back some of the belt-tightening it instituted in April, according to a Sept. 10 memorandum by Dentons US CEO Mike McNamara that Law360 obtained on Friday.

"Strong fee collections coupled with the expense discipline and the benefits of the resiliency program has resulted in positive financial performance and the solid position for our business that we have collectively worked to secure," McNamara wrote.

Dentons announced in April that it would reduce pay for all U.S. lawyers and staff earning more than $60,000. Partners would see reductions in draws of 20%, with the most highly compensated partners experiencing higher cuts, the firm said at the time.

All other attorneys and staff would see cuts of up to 20%, with those earning $60,000 or less not seeing a reduction, according to Dentons at the time.

McNamara said Thursday that beginning Oct. 1, the firm would roll back by 50% the reductions in draw and compensation for all partners and employees.

For example, partners will now see reductions in draws of 10%, while all other attorneys and staff will see cuts of up to 10%, according to the CEO's memorandum. Now those earning $75,000 or less will not see a reduction in their earnings.

Dentons will also create a "bonus mechanism process" to ensure that "high performers" recoup some or all of the money they missed out on, depending on how the firm performs over the balance of 2020, according to the memorandum.

"The April comprehensive resiliency decisions were not easy choices to make," McNamara wrote. "We appreciate the support and sacrifice given by all to help us prepare for the uncertainties we have navigated to date and emerge stronger on the other side."

Following the cuts announced in April, Dentons has also awarded pay increases retroactive to Jan. 1, paid some bonuses for the first half of the year in June, and made additional bonus payments in August, according to Thursday's memorandum.

Dentons will also continue through the end of the year to allow employees to work remotely, with firm officials planning to evaluate its plans for 2021 in "due course," according to the memorandum.

Dentons is among the latest law firms to roll back pay cuts and other austerity measures.

On Tuesday, Holland & Hart LLP confirmed it had returned all employees' salaries and equity partners' third-quarter profit distribution to the full amount. It also reinstated its employee match to 401(k) contributions this month.

On Wednesday, Ogletree Deakins Nash Smoak & Stewart PC confirmed it had eliminated all salary reductions at the beginning of September, while Eversheds Sutherland confirmed the firm's U.S. branch is restoring half of the 10% compensation cut it instituted in early May in response to the pandemic.

--Additional reporting by Xiumei Dong and Hailey Konnath. Editing by Michael Watanabe.

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