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UK City Firms

Nabarro (London)

Nabarro merged with fellow City firms CMS and Olswang on 1st May 2017. The Nabarro brand is no more - it is now just CMS - and this review will be taken down once we have more information on how the new, merged firm has come together. But for the moment anyone interested in the new, expanded CMS should read the review below to see what a large part of the firm looks like. Clearly salary levels, benefits, trainee retention rates etc. are now all subject to change.

Nabarro is a bigger firm than you might think: it now has 300 lawyers and 109 partners. The partners made an average profit of £576,000 in 2014/15, up from £475,000 in 20013/14, which was up 10% on the year before, which in turn was up 10% on 2011/12. So nothing to scoff at. And the firm has a reputation for promoting from within wherever possible, so the chances for ambitious assistants are as good as they get for this sort of mid-market practice.

The firm's gold standard has always been its property department which is extremely strong (recent deals of note include work on the 2012 Olympic park and the excitingly newsworthy redevelopment of Chelsea Barracks - whether Prince Charles likes it or not). Real estate clients in 2016 include big players like Land Securities, Hammerson, Great Portland Estates and Lend Lease.

In the last few years, however, Nabarro has sought to be seen as more of a corporate firm, with an aim to be "the top commercial law firm serving the UK mid-market". Besides property, it has stated that it is focussing on the healthcare & life sciences, infrastructure and technology sectors and now has three practice divisions: Real Estate, Business Advisory and Dispute Resolution. So now you know.

It seems to be making a decent stab of it. Things may not be quite back to the levels of 2006/2007, when the market was booming and the firm's corporate group was very busy - but it can boast of scoring work from Lloyds bank, Santander, UBS and Aviva, as well as high profile clients including Google, Twitter, IBM, Aston Martin and GlaxoSmithKline.

A couple of years ago there were a few reports suggesting that things were a bit slow. There were a few nasty rumours of people leaving not necessarily of their own free will. The firm was definitely doing some cost-cutting - it shaved 13 fee-earners and 10 other staff from its headcount in 2011/12. But if recent figures are anything to go by, things are indeed looking up. As well as those PEP increases, turnover in 2014/15 increased by 8% to £126m.

And it seems like a relatively pleasant place to work, with lots and lots of correspondents telling us that it is "extremely friendly" and has partners who are "open", with "only a few arsey" ones. Which is always nice.

If you fancy a training contract (and going through the quirky six-seat rotation), it's pretty much a given that you'll need to have done a vacation scheme. The six seats you'll face are the standard set - plenty of corporate and banking and pensions - with a hefty chunk of real estate thrown in (which, if nothing else, probably means you'll get to run small matters pretty much all on your own). Plus there's a good-sized disputes team who get instructed on sizeable matters (including mopping up Lehman Brothers and Northern Rock). And if you're in Sheffield, you can do a few months of work on vibration white finger. The social scene oop north is recommended, though - with "even partners coming along to embarrass themselves". Generally, trainees vouch for the Nabarro experience. Several responding to the RollOnFrday Firm of the Year 2016 survey said the training was "excellent", with "lots of opportunity to get involved outside the department/beyond day to day work e.g. pro bono/volunteering/socials".

As of 2016 the firm has a flexible working policy as part of the firm's popular wellbeing programme, which allows working from home one day per week. It drew a lot of praise in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2016 survey. An "excellent" initiative, said one. There is now a "big focus on flexible working and workplace culture", said a senior lawyer, which "seems to be making everyone much happier". There is, said a junior lawyer, "a genuine desire for people to have a good work-life balance".

On the negative side, the pay is generally viewed as a bit cruddy. It would be OK on the basis that the hours are meant to fall short of the top tier. But several lawyers tell RollOnFriday they don't: "Salaries reflect mid-market", said one, "but working hours in certain departments are more like Magic Circle/American law firm hours". Others said that "generally" the hours are fine, and it appears to depend on your department and office: an associate said there was a "great work/life balance" in Sheffield. As far as bonuses go, the firm's line is that in 2014/15 associates were rewarded with in excess of £1m in bonuses and can (hypothetically) earn up to 20% of their salaries by winning them.

Those looking for experience overseas may be underwhelmed by Nabarro's list of out-of-London offices: Brussels (for competition law), Singapore (mainly construction and engineering work) and, of course, Sheffield. Although in 2014 it did add Dubai to the mix (and, slightly less exotically, Manchester). And at least the London Wall offices have been completely refurbished. They're now "amazing" and have "incredible panoramic views" across London, even if does sometimes feel "like living in a conservatory with sliding glass doors".

Also good: free evening meals for anyone working late, which has proved very popular. That initiative falls under the firm's wellbeing programme, which seeks to encourage a healthy lifestyle. It's "great", according to several staff. 

For more information on recruitment at Nabarro click here

For more information on Nabarro click here


Salary (1st seat trainee): £38,000
Salary (NQ): £62,000
Salary (1PQE): £68,500
Salary (2PQE): £73,000
Salary (3PQE): £78,000
Salary (Salaried partner):

Bonus Scheme

Bonus scheme: Yes
Typical bonus as % of salary
- NQ: %
- 1PQE: %
- 2PQE: %
- 3PQE: %
- 4PQE: %
- 5PQE: %
- Partner: %


Grant for GDL: £6,000
Grant for LPC: £7,000
Training places per year: 30
% of trainees retained: 77%

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores

Salary: 58%
Development: 63%
Work/Life: 57%
Openness: 55%
Biscuits: 69%
Toilets: 43%
Social: 67%
Firm of the year overall score: 59%


Holiday allowance: 26
Flexi holiday: Yes
Pension: Contributory
Healthcare: Yes
Maternity policy: Statutory (plus discretionary enhanced pay whilst on leave and bonus on return to work)
Target hours: 1500
Childcare vouchers: Yes
Gym: Subsidised
Restaurant: Yes
24 hour photocopying support: Yes
24 hour secretarial support: Yes


News Stories

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Exclusive: Linklaters makes up more women than men for the first time ever
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Trowers and Nabarro announce unusually low partner promotions
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Nabarro trainees in 100% retention job bonanza
No-one's going anywhere ... read more >

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