Australian Firm of the Year 2012: The Big Six
17 February 2012
This year it was the smaller firms which dominated the top of the Australian Firm of the Year
table, leaving the Big Six foundering in their wake with some rather mediocre scores.
Allens Arthur Robinson (77%) took the top spot amongst the Big Six,
thanks in part to a stellar score for pay. Clayton Utz also did relatively well, and whilst it attracted plenty of criticism especially for pay and prospects, the general sentiment of respondents seemed to be that the firm was on its way up after a rather shaky time. The outlook was distinctly less bright at Minter Ellison, which bumped along at the bottom of the charts in most categories.
Lawyers at the Big Six firms on the whole were quite satisfied with their bank balances. Despite the inevitably long
hours at Allens Arthur Robinson (the firm took a bit of a beating for work/life with just 66%), it
seems that its lawyers' pay packets are big enough to warrant a
whopping 93% satisfaction score for pay. The top score of the category overall.
Staff were less content at Clayton Utz. Although 76% isn't too shabby a score, there were multiple grumbles from staff about "poor salaries
" and the "laughable bonus scheme
". One senior associate complained rather bitterly about being asked to "donate our hard-earned
" to the Clayton Utz Foundation, which then used some of the cash to "send two summer clerks on a jaunt...to the Tiwi Islands
Blake Dawson followed closely behind (70%). One lawyer claimed that "although general pay rates may not be at the absolute top of market
", good performers were "taken care of in terms of salary
". But Freehills ("they need to share the love (the $$) a bit more
"), Mallesons ("salaries significantly below the top tier
") and Minters were all loitering towards the bottom of the table with a clutch of very average scores.
Again it was Allens Arthur Robinson that took the lead, scoring an 84% satisfaction score for its training and development of staff. Lawyers praised the firm for "great career development
" and "fantastic people
". Following behind, Blake Dawson (70%) was commended for its "excellent learning and development programme
." But other members of staff were less effusive, according to one senior lawyer the firm "still has some work to do towards achieving gender equality
Whilst Clayton Utz (66%) was praised by one Brisbane-based lawyer for "good career progression
", it was suggested that life in other offices "*cough* Sydney, *cough* Melbourne
" was not so sweet. At Freehills (63%) staff were also dubious about their future prospects. "Senior associates have run for their lives
", claimed one lawyer. Although to give the firm its dues, there was an overall sense that life was on the up. Lawyers claimed that the Clutz had "genuinely tried to protect jobs
" and that things were "getting better
Bumping along at the bottom again with an uninspiring 56% was Minters, where prospects must be well and truly dire.
Unsurprisingly the Big Six firms took a bit of a beating for work-life balance. Freehills, which came second from last amongst the Big Six with a woeful 45%, was panned for "punishing hours
", although these may be a payoff for what one associate excitedly referred to as the "consistently excellent (ie interesting and big dollar) work.
" Doing slightly better with 50%, Mallesons was still slammed for "unsustainable hours
It was a rather sunnier outlook at Clayton Utz, which topped to Big Six with 70% satisfaction for work-life balance, praised for "decent hours"
, "a good reputation and nice co-workers
". And the "excellent parties
" together with "fantastic work
" and "great people
" at Allens may have helped it to a decent work-life satisfaction score of 66%.
None of the Big Six were particularly impressive when it came to the question of how well they communicated with their staff. Allens took the top spot once again with 69% (8th position overall). Following closely behind was Clayton Utz (57%) where staff praised "partners that can be trusted
" and one lawyer claimed to have "confidence in the leadership
" despite a "turbulent year in the media
At the (even) more mediocre end of the table, Blake Dawson (50%) was criticised for the "disconnect between senior management and the rest of the firm
." One senior lawyer complained that staff are "the last to find out about firm news
." While Freehills staff moaned about "abusive partners
." One senior lawyer suggested that the lack of openness at the firm extended to clients, too, claiming that a summer clerk was "passed off as a junior at a recent takeover meeting
Biscuits, bogs and boozing
And to the categories that count. Scores were high in the social life category. "Excellent parties and lots of them
" secured a 78% satisfaction score for Allens. But it was Clayton Utz which topped the chart amongst the Big Six with 84%, hardly surprising when the firm has " the coolest outdoor CBD entertaining/bbq deck in law firm history
". According to one Clutzer, there's "nothing better than a beer and a bbq with views to the harbour for entertaining clients
." Even Minters managed a fairly decent 69%.
The Big Six did less well when it came to biscuits. Even top scorer Clayton Utz (72%) was criticised for "pretty average biscuits
", although luckily this was "made up for by dee-lish canapés from in-house chef
." But at least Clutzers get biscuits, Freehills seems to have recently eschewed the naughty snacks in favour of "fruit boxes every second day
And finally the toilet category. Freehills took joint bottom with just 55%, one respondent claimed "The toilets and general plumbing is crap in the Sydney office
". But don't fear, according to one lawyer there are "better toilets in Melbourne
For a full list of all the winners and losers click here