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UK City Firms
Holman Fenwick Willan (London)
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 "
" 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. Following an amazing year in 2008/09 when turnover shot up by 27% and partner profits by 26%, the firm grew by 1% in 2009/10 to £99.6m. Pretty small growth, but impressive at a time when most firms saw a fall in turnover. Growth seems to be back on track now: in 2010/11 HFW posted an impressive 13% hike, and it climbed another 13.8% in 2012/13 to £141 million. PEP stood at £530,000, not much more than the year before. But that's partly becuase 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):
Salary (Salaried partner):
Typical bonus as % of salary
Grant for GDL:
Grant for LPC:
Training places per year:
% of trainees retained:
RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores
Firm of the year overall score:
25 - 27
Employee contributes 5%, firm contributes 10%
Statutory plus discretionary
24 hour photocopying support:
24 hour secretarial support:
Night secretarial support only if requested.
Explanation and source of figures
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The target hours are actually 1600.
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and childcare vouchers are now offered