Under the glare of the legal press spotlight the CMS, Nabarro, Olswang merger has been voted through, paving the way for the creation of a global firm with revenues of almost £1bn.
For staff at these firms it must be an exciting time but also a time of considerable uncertainty. This is particularly true for the 850 business services staff at the three firms whose jobs are apparently under threat.
At times of considerable change such as this, good internal communications are key. Giving staff the right level of information can be particularly difficult, especially when talks are still on going and the legal press are scrutinising every aspect of the deal – something I have written about before. Balancing the need to keep critical discussions under wraps whilst communicating with employees who are reading rumours in the press is hard to get right but, as Nabarro found when talks of the merger broke, failure to be upfront with your staff can lead to a lack of trust between management and employees.
After merger talks were out in the open, Nabarro ‘insiders’ expressed concern at the contents of an “all staff” email circulated by the firm’s senior partner in September denying the firm was looking for a merger. The email, which stated a “merger is not part of our strategy”, came less than three weeks before Nabarro revealed it was in late merger talks.
Although it is understandable that the firm did not want to tell staff they were in merger talks as this information would most likely find its way to journalists inboxes, to flatly deny merger was even part of the strategy when management were all fully aware of the ongoing talks will not have been well received by staff. This will make it harder in the weeks ahead when communications about the change ahead need to be seen as credible by those working at the firm.
These were no doubt very difficult times for Nabarro’s management team and their communications advisers. Merger talks can be very sensitive as management seek to get buy in from all quarters of the partnership. Leaks to press can threaten to derail the process and mass communications to staff must be carefully worded.
Staff will understand that they cannot be told about everything that happens at management level but it’s key that where possible, flat denials are avoided and communications are truthful, even if they cannot give any firm detail.
The email, which stated a “merger is not part of our strategy”, came less than three weeks before Nabarro revealed it was in late-stage merger talks with both CMS and Olswang. A source close to the firm said the contradictory emails demonstrate Carvalho “showing contempt” for Nabarro lawyers and staff.