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US firm Brobeck Phleger & Harrison has launched a radical sabbatical programme in a bid to deal with unoccupied lawyers as the firm struggles to cope with slow down in technology-related corporate work.Although Brobecks has unofficially allowed staff to take sabbaticals the firm has now organised un-paid breaks so the firm can deal with the tech downturn.Under the scheme lawyers can leave the firm for a number of months without pay. The move should help balance the firm’s current over-capacity and reduce partner costs.The scheme will be available to lawyers in the firm’s joint venture London office, which is runs together with fellow US firm Hale & Dorr, and it is understood a number of solicitors will taking up the offer.Brobecks, like all firms heavily dependent on the tech IPO market, has suffered over the last six months and has seen work rates in capital markets fall off.However, the firm has decided it will not lay off its staff because such a strategy would damage the firm’s reputation and make it very hard to attract back talent when there is a tech market return.Chris Grew, a corporate partner at Brobeck’s European joint venture Brobeck Hale and Dorr said the firm was committed to keeping staff.“I remember the 80s and 90s when there were big lays off and firms were hurt by this,” he said.Grew added that although the firm was eagerly waiting for a tech upturn because of its diverse practice in the US, the situation was not critical.“We are not a one trick pony,” said Grew.Smaller Californian firms with more dedicated IPO practices are in a worse situation and firms such as the Venture Law Group and Gunderson Dettmer have both had to lay off staff.

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