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UK City Firms

King & Wood Mallesons (London)

Our view...

KWM SJB was until July 2013 known as SJ Berwin, and as the younger sister to Berwin Leighton Paisner (born in 1982 and 1970 respectively - the rivalry between the two firms was legendary). Ever aggressive, SJB was the first of the City firms to announce the significant increase in junior lawyers' salaries in May 2000. The other big players had no choice but to follow suit, with Clifford Chance upping the stakes still further. If you are an assistant at another big firm you should be thanking legacy SJB (and if you are a partner you will no doubt be cursing it) - these were the guys who made the market in NQ salaries what it is today.

This was typical of SJ Berwin's style, a style which may have won round clients but often repelled other lawyers, particularly those at its larger, older rivals. SJ Berwin shrugged this off as sour grapes against a new kid on the block whose practice was putting many more established firms to shame.

Legacy SJ Berwin had a reputation for red braces, power breakfasts, aggression and long hours. It appeared to be justified. In recent years, news reached RollOnFriday of low morale throughout, associates vanishing in the night, "terrible internal communications" and partners lacking in common civility ("I understand Blur based the song "Charmless man" on them").

Overseas expansion was a moveable feast. The firm merged with its German arm (full of handsome men, we hear) a few years back (the niftily named SJ Berwin Knopf Tulloch Steininger). Then the firm attempted a US merger with several shops - Mayer Brown, Proskauer and Orrick all came to naught.

But the firm finally saw success in July 2013 via a merger with Asia Pacific powerhouse King Wood Mallesons, which completed in November. At the cost of sacrificing its name and possibly its culture, SJB got global reach. That grinding sound you hear is Stanley Berwin turning in his grave...

Still, in the long term it may prove to be a shrewd move. Staff reported, "a real buzz about the combination". Two years on there are reports that the merger "seems to be working". An NQ says the firm now has an "interesting future ahead of it". In terms of real change, "I'm off to Aus on secondment", says a senior associate. Of course there's a downside: a 1PQE says the merger, "means my sleep time has diminished drastically (what with speaking to Chinese colleagues in the wee hours of the morning and having conference calls with American clients at night)".

There are some signs that partners may also finally have realised that the steady stream of departures and toxic reputation weren't a great ad. Though not spectacular, 2015's RollOnFriday Firm of the Year results were an improvement on recent years'. According to one junior associate, some of the partner exits helped: most of the "knobs that were responsible for the firm's aggressive reputation have left (yay!)". Others say that the new management has "moved the firm forward on many levels", and is "communicating more" with the troops.

The work is undoubtedly excellent. The corporate practice at KWM is everything you would expect it to be - hard, fast and client-focussed - and while the firm took one hell of a kicking in the downturn (i.e. death) in private equity work, it's picked up since with the firm having acted for Apax and 3i, amongst others. Despite the added bonus of "two top quality table football tables" in the department, it's here that you can expect one hell of a beasting and where we hear the odd rumble of discontent. Those partners have to keep their half million PEP up somehow, you know.

Corporate aside, there's real estate work a-plenty, and the firm recently worked for British Land on the development of London's latest oddly-named landmark, the Cheesegrater On the development side, NQs says there's a "good support network" for juniors and a "commitment to training".

The classy office building overlooking the Thames, all glass and dark wood, is always singled out for praise. Particularly the "excellent roof terrace".

We reckon it's a good bet for thrusting young things who want to get their hands dirty (with work, that is). And you get a free lunch. Nice.

For more information on KWM click here
For more information on King & Wood Mallesons click here


Salary (1st seat trainee): £40,000
Salary (NQ): £64,000
Salary (1PQE): £68,000
Salary (2PQE): £80,000
Salary (3PQE): £87,000
Salary (Salaried partner):

Bonus Scheme

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


Grant for GDL: £7,250
Grant for LPC: £7,250
Training places per year: 37
% of trainees retained: 76%

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores

Salary: 61%
Development: 61%
Work/Life: 54%
Openness: 52%
Biscuits: 78%
Toilets: 70%
Social: 64%
Firm of the year overall score: 61%


Holiday allowance: 25 - 30
Flexi holiday: No
Pension: Contributory 5%
Healthcare: Yes
Maternity policy: 6 months full pay. Paternity 5 days paid, up to 13 weeks unpaid
Target hours: 1700
Childcare vouchers: Yes
Gym: Subsidised
Restaurant: Yes
24 hour photocopying support: Yes
24 hour secretarial support: Yes
Other: Free lunch in dining room every day, free dinner after 8pm.


News Stories

KWM left rudderless after trio of senior resignations
If one is unfortunate and two is careless, then three ... read more > (5 comments)
KWM SJ Berwin partner in bonkers YouTube video
Tim Taylor QC can't get enough of the limelight ... read more > (6 comments)
SJ Berwin pulls off merger with King & Wood Mallesons
And, like a post-coital male mantis, will now be eaten ... read more > (8 comments)
UK Firm of the Year 2013: Work-Life Balance
Bird & Bird puts the life into work-life balance, but Linklaters lawyers "get flogged to death" ... read more >
SJ Berwin to sack partners
Firm joins peers in managing its equity to keep up the bottom line ... read more > (1 comment)

Your Views

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anonymous user
11/05/2012 16:58
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Why do you persist in putting a vastly inflated salary level for 2pqe solicitors at SJB? £80k??? It is nowhere even close to this figure!
anonymous user
10/08/2012 10:29
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NQ is actually at 60k.
anonymous user
22/04/2013 11:22
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This is really out of date! A 3yr PQE is NOT at £87k!! That's what a 5 yr PQE is on ...
anonymous user
19/09/2013 13:41
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1st seat trainees are actually on £37.5k
anonymous user
02/04/2014 18:53
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Come on ROF, check your facts - salaries have never been at those levels at SJB! NQs hover around £60k, 1PQE £62-65k, 2PQE £65-70k, 3PQE £70-75k (if they're lucky). And that, friends, is one of the main reasons US firms are so successful at poaching mid tier UK City folk. The only exception is Funds where the associates who didn't jump ship were extremely well-rewarded for their loyalty.