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UK City Firms

Charles Russell Speechlys (London)

Our view...
    
Charles Russell and Speechly Bircham merged on 1 November 2014 to form Charles Russell Speechlys. Disappointingly, not Rustling Birch or Bircham Russell: RoF's predictions for the new name. Altogether, it seems like a good fit. Combined CRS has 170 partners and a fee income of about £135 million. Last year the difference in average equity partner pay between the two firms was only around £10k. It will also be the largest private client firm in the UK by a considerable margin, with offices also in Europe and the Middle East.

Of course, Speechly Bircham was looking around for a merger partner for some time and its proposed tie-up with Withers collapsed last year at the last moment. This time around the firm held regular meetings with its partners to ensure that they remained aware of the many benefits of voting yes. And, unlike Withers, Charles Russell also managed to stay the course. Charles Russell was the larger (only slightly) of the two firms. It had been a smart, family run private client practice for generations and used to be the firm to which wealthy Catholic families turned - the irony being that it’s a great divorce outfit. Although the family link has now weakened, offices in Cheltenham and Guildford help maintain ties with wealthier landed clients.
 
CRS reputation is in high-quality private client advice, but it also has commercial clout and decent media and technology capabilities. And the client roster is a pretty sexy one, including the likes of Andy Taylor (of Duran Duran fame), The FA, Harper Collins and Virgin Media. It also has a flourishing sports practice, with big hitters such as Nike and Mercedes GP on the books. The merger also means that the firm will be looking ahead to brighter times, and getting over the last few difficult years: in 2009 and 2012 there were redundancy spells for Charles Russell. And it closed its Oxford office in January 2012 and sold its Cambridge office to Penningtons in March that year.
 
Before the merger, insiders at Charles Russell praised the "collegiate atmosphere", "good team vibe" and the boat party and annual sports dinner. Work-life balance was rated as better than at other firms, but pay was described as "laughably bad when compared to our competitors (and these are not magic or silver circle but other top 30- 50 firms)". One associate complains that its partners are “great lawyers but rubbish managers”. Another claims that “certain equity partners seem to exercise a Mafia like control over the firm” and there were also complaints that partnership is "strictly Oxbridge based".



Salary

Salary (1st seat trainee): £32,500
Salary (NQ): £55,000
Salary (1PQE): £58,000
Salary (2PQE): £61,000
Salary (3PQE): £64,500
Salary (Salaried partner):

Bonus Scheme

Bonus scheme: No
Typical bonus as % of salary
- NQ: %
- 1PQE: %
- 2PQE: %
- 3PQE: %
- 4PQE: %
- 5PQE: %
- Partner: %

Training

Grant for GDL: £6,000
Grant for LPC: £6,000
Training places per year: 18
% of trainees retained: 77%

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Scores

Salary: 53%
Development: 66%
Work/Life: 69%
Openness: 59%
Biscuits: 64%
Toilets: 69%
Social: 69%
Firm of the year overall score: 64%

Benefits

Holiday allowance: 25
Flexi holiday: No
Pension: Contributory, up to 5%
Healthcare: Yes
Maternity policy: Enhanced pay. 1-4 years service, 14 weeks at full salary, 12 weeks statutory. 4 years plus service, 15 weeks at full salary, 11 weeks statutory.
Target hours: 1500
Childcare vouchers: No
Gym: No
Restaurant: Yes, subsidised
24 hour photocopying support: No
24 hour secretarial support: No
Other: Over four years you can accrue a further three days holiday. Private medical. Life assurance.

  

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