Clyde & Co (London)
A year on from Clyde & Co's merger with troubled Barlow Lyde & Gilbert ('takeover' might be more accurate) and the dust still hasn't entirely settled. As the name suggests, Clydes - an international shipping behemoth - was very much in the driving seat when it subsumed BLG, a firm which had gone through some stormy weather and was happy to take refuge in the Clyde's dry harbour. Since then, a swathe of legacy BLG partners have exited, including, most recently, the architect of the deal, former BLG CEO David Jabbari. Maybe the big cheese's departure marks the last of the merger fallout. Maybe...
Clydes, along with Holman Fenwick & Willan and Ince & Co, was traditionally one of the three great shipping firms in the City. This wasn't necessarily a good thing: collision work has been declining thanks to better maritime regulation and training, and protection and indemnity clubs are, well, clubbing together to drive their lawyers' rates down as well as bringing more work in-house. As European expertise in the field increases, more work is also going to Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, whose rates are generally cheaper than in the UK.
In view of these changes Clydes decided to diversify and expand. And so far it seems to have made a huge success of it. Turnover has been rising since 2005 - credit crunch or not - and the firm's 2011-12 results showed that turnover was up a massive 35% on the previous year, at £286m. A lot of that extra cash is down to the BLG merger, and has its flipside in the lower profits per equity partner anticipated this year now that the firm is dishing it out to 273 partners instead of 164 (£550,000, down from £605,000 a year ago). Unless, that is, more partners are booted.
Clydes currently has a strong international presence with 27 offices worldwide - having recently added Perth, Sydney, Montreal and Toronto to the list - and it makes a big play of its international presence. Which is perhaps unsurprising given that more than 42% of the firm's revenue is generated outside the UK. And according to the firm this trend is likely to continue.
A good spread of international offices means that there are opportunities for trainees to spend their second or third seats overseas - in Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore or, err, Piraeus. We know where we'd rather go. The firm also has a Guildford office that famously pays London rates. Rather less famously it also expects its lawyers to work London hours, but given the lower living costs which normally come with provincial offices this still sounds like a pretty good deal.
Shipping is still important, but insurance and reinsurance and now aviation are also very strong sectors. It's now a proper full service law firm, with the profits and overseas offices to match. Clydes' corporate and commercial practice now makes up almost 30% of its worldwide turnover. This explains why its assistants reckon they work harder than at the other, traditional shipping firms - but with targets at a fairly gentle 1430 hours it still compares very favourably with the bigger City outfits.
The main reason for this is that unlike most City firms, the majority of Clydes' work is still litigation rather than corporate. Inevitably this sort of practice doesn't require the level of all-nighters you'll experience at more transaction-led firms, and it's great news if you fancy ending up as a litigator. But possibly not the first choice if you want to specialise in M&A .
Assistants seem to enjoy their work, the “relatively good working hours
” and the fact that it's clearly an ambitious, business-like firm. Plus the "great new office
" in the St Botolph building is "lovely
" and "prettty swish
". Although the go-getting, slightly aggressive atmosphere probably wouldn't suit shrinking violets, and there are grumbles about the "disturbing lack of female partners
", where Clydes is apparently "still behind the curve compared to other City firms
And the firm fared badly in RollOnFriday's Firm of the Year survey, propping up the latter half of the table several spots below merger partner BLG. The low placing may be partly explained by the fact that salaries are reasonable rather than spectacular. But many will think that the shorter hours compensate for this.
Grumble aside this is “generally a really friendly environment
” with partners who are "approachable and inclusionary
". Allied with an expanding overseas network, rapidly rising profits and reasonably civilised hours it's a solid choice.
For more information on Clyde & Co click here