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UK City Firms

Simmons & Simmons (London)

Our view....

After a few years of defections and money worries Simmons seems to have turned the corner. Over the past five years revenues have increased nicely, partners are now averaging about half a million a year, and turnover for 2010 hit £250 million (the same as in 2007, pre-economic buggeration).

Simmons' traditional problem has been that it was rarely principal adviser to top companies and found it difficult to cream off the best work as a result. Although it has plenty of major clients such as JP Morgan, Deutsche Bank and Credit Suisse, when the big deal comes along it is consistently overlooked. A few years back the firm underwent a strategic review with the aim, amongst other things, of addressing this and focussing on the type of client for whom it wanted to act. It is now concentrating on five key sectors: Asset Management & Investment Funds, Energy & Infrastructure, Financial Institutions, Life Sciences and Technology, Media and Telecommunications. The ambition is that whilst it can't compete with the biggest firms on everything, it should be in the running on any deal that falls within these areas.

Given the rise in profits this has clearly started to pay dividends. Although it's fair to say that the firm's financial performance lags behind some of its competitors, the breadth of the firm's practice means that it managed to hedge somewhat against the downturn, whilst other firms who've focussed exclusively on big ticket corporate work found that they have a lot of salaries to pay and precious little work coming through the door.

Simmons also benefits from a stellar reputation in some niche areas of the market. Its employment team is without a doubt the best in the City, with anyone who's anyone gracing the client books. It's also one of the best firms for IP and life sciences work, acting for clients such as GlaxoSmithKline and Bacardi. The IT team has got the Indian outsourcing market pretty much sewn up, the projects group is excellent, and litigation has been consistently busy and profitable. High profile sexy clients include HMV, Virgin Media and the odd Russian oligarch (the firm acted on Lebedev's purchase of the Evening Standard).

It even seems to be making progress in its achilles heal of international expansion. And with 20 offices worldwide, trainees can expect a trip out to any number of exotic and glamorous locations. Or Dubai (where, to be fair, it's supposedly a great laugh).

On top of that, Simmons is widely considered one of the more laid back firms at which to work and its got pretty swanky offices at City Point (complete with Damien Hirst art and a neon sign saying "trust me" outside the lecture hall). Assistants are pretty much unanimous in their praise, commenting that "the work is really interesting and big ticket, and the hours are relatively civilised", and "everyone has a friendly and approachable attitude". How very jolly. But that doesn't change the fact that associate attrition is rumoured to be high - especially with pay being nothing special and the bonus metric incomprehensible.

A job lot of trainees were deferred in 2009 when the firm simply didn't have the capacity to employ them - but at least they got to do a special MBA (and received a generous stipend for doing so). Having said that, reports reach us that there are still too many trainees around - and you may find yourself doing work which - in busier times - would be considered secretarial.

Salary

Salary (1st seat trainee): £37,500
Salary (NQ): £59,000
Salary (1PQE): £66,000
Salary (2PQE): £75,000
Salary (3PQE): £78,000
Salary (Salaried partner):

Bonus Scheme

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

Training

Grant for GDL: £6,500
Grant for LPC: £7,500
Training places per year: 40
% of trainees retained: 72%

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores

Salary: 63%
Development: 72%
Work/Life: 57%
Openness: 65%
Biscuits: 68%
Toilets: 71%
Social: 72%
Firm of the year overall score: 66%

Benefits

Holiday allowance: 25+
Flexi holiday: Yes
Pension: Group Flexible Retirement Plan, 5% contribution from the firm
Healthcare: Yes
Maternity policy: 26 weeks at 100% average weekly earnings + 13 weeks at Statutory Maternity Pay and remaining 13 weeks unpaid
Target hours: 1700
Childcare vouchers: Yes
Gym: Gym allowance to help with cost of membership
Restaurant: Yes, subsidised
24 hour photocopying support: Yes
24 hour secretarial support: Yes
Other: Music lessons and a range of flexible benefits

  

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