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UK City Firms

CMS (London)

Our view...

The firm is an unusual beast. 'CMS' refers to it's global network, now expanded to 59 offices (most recently Portugal, Luxemburg, Albania and Dubai) in 33 countries with over 5000 staff, it's become the sixth largest global law firm. However when you hear 'CMS Cameron McKenna' that refers to the firm's UK and Eastern European network. Slightly confusing messaging? As one London lawyer puts it "Are we CMS? CMS Cameron McKenna? No one really knows".

The firm has gradually been getting back since the unsettling days of the credit crunch when it made 43 fee-earners redundant and deferred it's NQ start dates. In order to prevent further redundancies, a flexible working scheme was introduced in 2010, involving the vast majority of staff either working shorter weeks or taking unpaid leave. It acquired sickly Scottish firm Dundas & Wilson in May 2014, but as can be expected there were casualties, and  60 support staff roles were on the line.

It abandoned an element of performance related pay for partners in favour of pure lockstep, waving goodbye to its practice of sharing out around 5% of profits amongst star partners every year. The firm claims performance-based pay was divisive and costly to administer, and unmodified lockstep certainly fits in with the egalitarian partnership ethos. There were concerns that top performers who could have been better rewarded elsewhere would have jumped ship, but so far these seem to have come to nothing. And they're unlikely to jump ship now: the firm's strong focus on Central and Eastern Europe has hedged it against a slower UK market.
CMS falls somewhat between two stools: it's not big enough to enjoy the reputation and profits of the Magic Circle or the chasing pack. And whilst insiders report that staff are a “genuinely decent bunch of down to earth people" and praise of "good work, good colleagues [and] an open and unpretentious environment", it can't offer the collegiality of smaller corporate firms like Travers Smith.

The firm performed well in the most recent Firm of the Year survey, falling just outside the top-ten. There were still grumblings about Mitre House (its London office), but then relief as they moved from the "Orwellian granite block” to swish new offices in Cannon Street at the start of 2015. Partners were described as "generally good leaders and active mentors" and the firm seems very encouraging of flexible working which one lawyer says is "not just lip service...the firm does seek to be ahead of the game with working mothers".

Overall staff seem happy to come into work with people who are "supportive, knowledgeable, friendly" and 'the social life and general attitude of most partners and associates make it a nice place to work". The firm's award winning CSR and pro bono team also received praise with one insider commenting that the "general charity work is outstanding."
Overall, CMS seems to be staffed with an above average number of nice people, offers a decent work-life balance, and with its dominance over the European market, it's done well to survive the downturn and any more dips in the market to follow. As one insider comments "overall a great firm that probably deserves more credit."
For more information on CMS click here


Salary (1st seat trainee): £40,000
Salary (NQ): £66,000
Salary (1PQE): £66,000
Salary (2PQE): £68,000
Salary (3PQE): £71,100
Salary (Salaried partner):

Bonus Scheme

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


Grant for GDL: £7,500
Grant for LPC: £7,500
Training places per year: 80
% of trainees retained: 76%

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores

Salary: 63%
Development: 62%
Work/Life: 59%
Openness: 47%
Biscuits: 59%
Toilets: 58%
Social: 76%
Firm of the year overall score: 61%


Holiday allowance: 25 - 28
Flexi holiday: No
Pension: From the age of 25 the firm matches up to 5% contributions. From 30-40: the firm matches up to 8%. From 40+ the firm matches up to 10%
Healthcare: Yes
Maternity policy: Enhanced (full pay for 10 weeks, half pay for 16 weeks plus return to work bonus)
Target hours: 1500
Childcare vouchers: Yes
Gym: Subsidised, 50%
Restaurant: Yes
24 hour photocopying support: Yes
24 hour secretarial support: Yes
Other: Option to buy and sell up to 5 days' holiday per year. "Concierge" service to help organise domestic activities, but reported to be very expensive. On site doctor and physiotherapist. Life assurance immediately


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