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UK City Firms
Trowers & Hamlins (London)
Trowers & Hamlins was traditionally a rather genteel, laces and braces outfit with a reputation for real estate, housing and public sector work. Its relatively small private client department seemed to be funded almost entirely by a handful of wealthy Middle Eastern sheiks, and it leveraged on this to make a big effort to get more out of the region and up its corporate game. For a while this led to impressive growth, but recently the firm has been having a pretty wobbly time of it.
Corporate and Real Estate (which still includes lots of housing and public sector - not very sexy but a big niche for the firm) form the lion’s share of T&H’s work: some 80% of its practice. Property takes up over a third of global revenue and the firm's four UK offices (Manchester, Birmingham, London and Exeter) are all top rated for social housing.
As far as the corporate practice is concerned, the Middle East is where it’s at. The firm has offices in Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Bahrain. It did have one in Cairo, but shut it in 2014 and left revolt-rocked Egypt. The firm does a huge amount of transport work in the Middle East and has a great deal of experience in Islamic finance. The firm’s private client team may still be small, but it’s also still successful in feeding the corporate dept.
After a torrid couple of years, there are signs turnover is beginning to recover. The firm did fairly well during the financial wobbly period of 2007/8, when despite dramatic falls in the real estate revenue at other firms, Trowers managed to grow to £77.6m. And in 2008/09, revenue jumped again by an impressive 15.3% to £89.5m. Whilst the following year saw a small drop to £89.4, the firm was still more than pulling its weight compared to its rivals.
At least it was until 2010/11, when the firm suffered a double digit drop, with revenues plunging 12% to £78.6m, pushing the firm out of the top 40. The firm blamed the difficulties in the social housing market. But its Middle East offices were also in the doldrums, following the ructions of the Arab Spring which caused the Cairo office to close. And its Saudia Arabia office was shuttered permanently in 2012 after partner defections. In the 2013/14 period its turnover dropped from £77.8m to £77.2m, though profit increased by by 33% to £24.2m. Trowers is bullish about a strong rebound, but it's still a tricky time for a firm which relies so heavily on housing work and the fragile Middle East.
To add to Trowers' woes it also came bottom in the 2015 Firm of the Year survey, which measures staff satisfaction. It has fared badly in the survey for years, routinely languishing near the bottom. This year lawyers said
morale is pretty bad
", with a partner adding that they presume the windows don't open "
to stop one ending it all
". Another claims that "
capricious decisions are commonplace as those unable to find work elsewhere seek to cement their position by knifing the more capable in the back
". Oof. On the other hand, a happier lawyer says there are "
a lot of genuinly wonderful people
" at the firm, and a "
One other upside: the firm recently moved to "
" swanky new offices on Bunhill Row, where apparently the only downside is that the "v
iew from the meeting rooms is somewhat spoilt by Slaughter and May
Equity partners all make pretty much the same, with the best paid on £450k (well down from 2009, when PEP was £553k). But, in any event, you're unlikely be amongst the top earners. Only 25 of T&H’s 118 UK partners are equity. Although at least this Spring 82% of its trainees were kept on as NQs.
The firm's focus may not be everyone’s cup of tea, and given the current state of the housing market and the troubles in the Middle East it's not going to be a quick path to recovery for Trowers. But if the work does float your boat then T&H may be worth serious consideration.
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RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores
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Firm contributes 3%
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Explanation and source of figures
Exclusive: Trowers fires employee for being too smelly
Trowers & Hamlins' foreign profits drop 96% to £100k
As students complain of seriously budget vac scheme
Trowers first foreign firm to gain licence in Malaysia
Granted the first of five golden tickets
Exclusive: Senior defections from Trowers & Hamlins Middle East
Top partners in the region jump ship
Exclusive: Trowers grad rec manager in drunken antics shocka
You don't have to be off your face to work here but it helps
Exclusive: Thompsons staff lose jobs as office is converted to coffee shop
First realised they were for the chop when Costa Coffee arrived to measure up the premises
Exclusive: Trowers' Senior Partner gets through five secretaries in a year
Before making a whole raft of them redundant
Exclusive: Linklaters makes up more women than men for the first time ever
Trowers and Nabarro announce unusually low partner promotions
Smallest round in years
Exclusive: Mass redundancies at Camerons, Dundas, Beachcroft and Trowers
Misery all round as firms rush to cut costs
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Please keep it nice. Thanks.
I joined Trowers in August 1959 when as Trower Still and Keeling
they were in New Square, Lincolns Inn. I was just 16 years of age and was passed onto the firm by an agency in Fleet Street who recommended me as a future articled clerk. I remember the days of Sir William Goselin Trower and his son Anthony Goselin
Trower and as I recall six or so other partners of the day.
The atmosphere at the firm was very friendly but also there was very much the feeling of them and us. You did not speak to anyone senior unless spoken to. All seniors were held in ore.
I remember starting on a salary of £4 10 shillings a week with five 30p luncheon vouchers per week. On this,you could lunch at Moonies Pub in Fleet Street maybe once a week, that was when Fleet Street was the centre of the news papers.
Sadly ,I left TS&K as it was known in 1968 as my father died suddenly and I had to support my mother on a little more salary than Trowers were paying.
I never did qualify as a Solicitor but my days in New Square were certainly a great beginning to my career as when I presented myself to a law firm in Hertfordshire to swear my fathers probate papers they were so impressed that they offer me a position as their Probate, Trust and Tax clerk where I remained for 36 happy years.
I will always remember my days at TS&K with affection and thanks for giving me a chance to prove myself.
I am now four years retired and living in Suffolk and alls well.
You may not be interested in my tale but after looking at your site could not resist leaving my little story !!!
One February at the annual Waldof office do, a quest said that Trowers would end up in a huge office somewhere in the city with 200 partners and a helipad on the roof. It seems that time has almost arrived.
(Retired Legal Executive)
I worked as a trainee at T&H at the start of the crisis. I saw the firm slowly falling apart with several rounds of redundancies, staff disappearing without any announcements made, morale collapsing, opacity in management decision making, loss of strategy with the drying up of social housing work and the firm totally outmanouvered in the Middle East and the closure of the Saudi associate office. I jumped ship on qualifying and didn't look back. It wasn't a good place to train. Despite the pride in their diversity statistics, it's not an inclusive place to work. Very much an "us and them" attitude. For a city law firm, it is strikingly parochial.
Unfortunately, my first experience at a law firm was at Trowers and had I not then go on to visit other law firms, I doubt I would have pursued a career in law. I felt hugely disrespected at a bursary interview in 2012 when I was 18. I was interviewed by 6 partners, few of which spent majority of the interview staring out the window or picking their nails. For argument's sake, assuming I was the worst interviewee ever, they still should have at least given me some respect by attempting to listen to what I was saying. Despite their diversity statistics and emphasis on there being no 'Trowers' type, it does not take a genius to notice that their graduate brochure features all white people except for one. Being a Muslim ethnic minority female, I felt very uncomfortable and I have still have not forgotten that experience after all these years. However, good things come to those who wait and I am working at a magic circle law firm now and enjoying watching Trowers fail. Good riddance to bad rubbish.