Clifford Chance has asked associates from its capital markets team in Singapore to take voluntary sabbaticals as the firm moves to cope with the dramatic slowdown in Asian securities work.
The Magic Circle law firm is understood to have met with staff this week to offer them a percentage of salary and benefits if they accept the offer of leave between now and early 2013. It is unknown how many staff will be affected by the cost-cutting measure, but sources close to the matter indicate that it will be less than 10.
Clifford Chance would not confirm the percentage of salary that associates would receive, but stressed that the firm was not making any redundancies or calling on lawyers in other teams or offices to take sabbaticals. No partners will be affected by the move.
"Capital markets is an important part of our practice in Southeast Asia and India," said Crawford Brickley, Clifford Chance practice area leader for capital markets in Asia Pacific.
"However, in common with any business, we always keep our resourcing under review to ensure that our capability is in line with client needs. We remain very busy in other practice areas and do not expect any further changes."
The City giant's stance reflects the current slowdown in Singapore and Hong Kong in equity capital markets (ECM), a key practice area that international firms have targeted in the region. The notoriously volatile market for initial public offerings has seen a number of floats delayed this year amid concerns about the global economy and signs that some economies in Asia are slowing their still-robust growth levels.
In May, luxury jeweler Graff Diamonds abandoned its $1 billion (£621 million) Hong Kong listing just two days before the deadline, shortly after copper producer China Nonferrous Mining Corp. and car dealer China Yongda Automobiles Services postponed their own IPOs.
Figures from Dealogic show that Hong Kong raised just $3 billion (£1.9 billion) in new listings between January and September this year compared with $23.8 billion (£14.7 billion) for the same period in 2011.
The sharp drop in ECM work is acknowledged by firms to have hit pricing, leaving some advisers to focus on expanding other practice areas. Notably, Clifford Chance this week announced that it was transferring its highly regarded restructuring chief Mark Hyde to Hong Kong to lead the firm's Asian finance practice.
Clifford Chance, which announced a redundancy consultation in March affecting 13 associates in its City finance and capital markets practices, said that it expected the Asian securities market to return to stronger levels of activity at the start of 2013.