Norton Rose Fulbright (London)
By any accounts Norton Rose Fulbright is a decent big City firm. And now it's a pretty big global one, too, following the merger with US firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP. This is a firm where staff are right to boast of a "real plan to become a true global player
". Norton Rose was already hefty, with 2,900 lawyers including 224 partners. Adding Fulbright increases the headcount to 3,800 lawyers in 54 offices.
Profits were in the order of a solid £354m in 2011/12, with the highest-earning equity partner earning over a million. As with so many firms, there seems to be a relatively slim chance of making partner (five were made up this year, while there is an annual intake of 60-odd trainees), but the partner intake did include three women. And there was a healthy gender balance last year, too. The firm has also brought in an "of counsel" role as an alternative career structure to partnership. That's hardly innovative, but you'll find out that NRP - well, legacy Norton Rose at least- really seems to believe in this stuff. Which is a bit rarer.
For such a big firm we've heard that it's a friendly place, with trainees and new assistants reporting that they are warmly welcomed and very quickly get into the swing of things. The general view is that it is a big City firm that is pleasant to work at, with good work and none of the hothouse culture found in some of its competitors. Well, maybe some. Whatever's in the water at NRP, it's obviously something special - the firm is a perennial high-scorer in the Firm of the Year Survey, especially for the white chocolate and macadamia cookies. These delicacies are, however, always out of stock, victims of their own success. Only slightly less impressive are the toilets, which make a sound like a "whale's mating call when you flush
Obviously - this being a City firm - the banking and asset finance groups are very busy, and long hours are required, but even here the atmosphere is decent enough. Pay is OK (and - supposedly - completely merit-based once you qualify so the salary bands to the right are just to provide an indication of the wedge associates 1PQE and above can expect), and a bonus kicks in once you bill in excess of 1,500 hours. This starts at 5%, and rises to 30% for those who bill more than 2,500 hours. Although if that's you, all you'll be fit to spend it on is psychiatric care.
Despite that, the firm says that it takes work/life balance very seriously. Certainly there's "no face time required
". There are
pastoral schemes in place for assistants and mentoring programmes for
trainees, and several support staff, assistants and partners take
advantage of part time or flexible working schemes (currently 8% of London associate are on some form of flexi-working). Unusually for a big
firm, it's possible for a part time assistant to be promoted straight to
the partnership. And - proudly standing pretty much alone - the firm
scored massive merit points during the downturn by - rather than just
offloading lawyers - moving workers to a four day week. This scheme - "Flex
" - was gratefully
received by staff who - had they been elsewhere - may well have been
wallpapering the walls of the City's recruitment consultants with their
On the downside, trainees say that there's not as much hands on experience in departments outside of property and litigation, but such is the lot at all large firms working on billion pound deals. In general, training here seems to be, well, a real laugh. Bank on spending at least one of your six seats overseas - and, if you're really lucky, two. And there's oodles of sporting and drinking activity. Having said all that, there's a whispered suggestion that it all comes to an end on qualification and the true face of the firm shows - "that of a greasy old bum
Fears that the rapid overseas expansion might go against the otherwise untouchable friendliness are yet to be confirmed, and it'll take at least a year to truly see the effects of the US merger. Fingers crossed. In the meantime, you get to work in the very smart London Bridge HQ overlooking the river, Boris Johnson's office and Tower Bridge.
Final word to the most excitable associate in law firm history: "A great law firm, the perfect balance...top quality work, top quality people. The meeting rooms have toffee crisps - for free. It is like if a law firm was also a children's story.
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