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UK City Firms

Holman Fenwick Willan (London)

Our view...  

Along with Ince and Co and Clyde and Co, Holman Fenwick Willan is one of the leading shipping firms in the City. Shipping isn't its only area of expertise - the firm has strong trade, commercial, insurance and energy departments - but it still dominates the practice and perhaps it shows, as one insider comments, there "appears to be one rule for the shipping department and one for everyone else".

HFW has a rather different culture from the traditional corporate firms as a result. An assistant notes that HFW "benefits from being a relaxed environment in which to work", and that it has "a non-hierarchical vibe".

Others report that it is "very friendly" and "even the big punching partners are happy to give up their time to explain things", which is very sporting of them. As a shipping specialist, the hours tend to be pretty civilised by City standards. Assistants report that on a day to day basis they are in at 9am and out by around 7pm; even the hardest workers leave by 7:30pm.

Its strong litigation practice (providing 83% of the firm's revenue) has helped HFW avoid a battering in the credit crisis. And it's had a pretty good year posting a 13.8 per cent increase in its 2012/13 turnover to £141m from £123.9m in 2011/12. Net profit also jumped 17% to £38m from £32.4m in the previous year. Average profit per equity partner (PEP), however, only climbed by one per cent from £525,000 to £530,000. But that's partly because it's added 10 new equity partners to the rosta, bringing the total to 72.

HFW has been expanding its international footprint too, with over 400 lawyers spread around 11 global offices including three in Australia, plus associations in Dubai and Saudi Arabia. All of which means "good opportunities for working abroad/secondments". Though in London the lawyer headcount did take a rather large tumble in 2012/13 from 220 to 189.

And, no surprise here, the money is not in the top tier (or as one lawyer says succinctly "salaries are lame"). But it's not bad; many assistants at larger City factories told us that they would happily sacrifice their recent salary increases for better hours, so HFW seems to be getting it right.

A few moans persist about IT support, which is "good when it happens, but takes a long time to get there". And there are complaints about the "lack of 24 hour secretarial support", but that's the rub when you work for a smaller firm. Also the firm hasn't passed the toilet test so it would seem, as one insider comments "Toilets which block repeatedly and a complete change in approach since appointing a COO who seems charged with cutting costs by any means."

Overall, the work is interesting, the hours are good and the assistants seem pretty chuffed with their deal.


Salary (1st seat trainee): £36,000
Salary (NQ): £58,000
Salary (1PQE): £62,000
Salary (2PQE): £66,000
Salary (3PQE): £73,000
Salary (Salaried partner):

Bonus Scheme

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


Grant for GDL: £6,000
Grant for LPC: £7,000
Training places per year: 14
% of trainees retained: 100%

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores

Salary: 40%
Development: 43%
Work/Life: 63%
Openness: 42%
Biscuits: 43%
Toilets: 63%
Social: 93%
Firm of the year overall score: 50%


Holiday allowance: 25 - 27
Flexi holiday: No
Pension: Employee contributes 5%, firm contributes 10%
Healthcare: Yes
Maternity policy: Statutory plus discretionary
Target hours: 1500
Childcare vouchers: No
Gym: Subsidised
Restaurant: Yes
24 hour photocopying support: No
24 hour secretarial support: No
Other: Night secretarial support only if requested.


Your Views

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anonymous user
30/03/2012 11:35
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The target hours are actually 1600.
anonymous user
11/06/2013 17:36
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and childcare vouchers are now offered
anonymous user
13/06/2016 16:37
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I applied for a TC and Vacation Scheme, got all the way to the assessment centre, never heard back from them with an outcome...not even an automatic email. I wrote to the general HR email twice after 2 months of the assessment centre, still no reply. Called 2 members of HR, both out office without any date when they will be back.

Considering that most firms provide feedback when you get to the assessment centre stage of the application, not even replying looks really bad...