Reynolds Porter Chamberlain (London)
RPC has traditionally been best known for its core litigation practice, making up over half of its workload. Wake up at the back! OK, this doesn't sound too sexy. But have no fear - there's more to RPC than meets the eye. And it's obviously doing something right - staff voted it into an impressive eleventh place in the 2014 Firm of the Year survey (though it's slipped a bit, having managed eighth place in 2013 and fifth in 2012).
So it's litigation front and centre, with a traditional focus on the insurance industry. But the firm has diversified its reach, too, ramping up its corporate offering and spreading into just about every dispute resolution nook. According to one insider, "the switch to focus on commercial rather
than insurance and seeking to compete with the silver circle has led to
the firm becoming more 'corporate'
". But generally it's managed to achieve the shift whilst avoiding the common problem of leaving other departments feeling sidelined - with significant internal growth (and plenty of lateral hiring) in non-contentious specialisms.
This means that it can support a variety of rather sexier departments. Its punchy media litigation practice has previously acted for The Telegraph Group, the Mirror Group and the Guardian as well as Associated Newspapers - them of the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail (and it seems there's plenty of defamation defending to do). The nature of the work means it is frequently in the papers. Work on Wembley stadium and the batch of Harry Potter books that went missing are just two examples of headline-chasing stuff. And it's also been hired to draw up the post-Leveson press regulations, which is a nice bit of business.
It's not a big firm, with around 225 fee earners, but it has a very snazzy glass and steel office near Tower Bridge. Which is entirely open plan. Although there were the inevitable grumbles about this when it was announced, it's proving to be very popular. Although beware the lifts, RPCers bemoan the frequent "electric shocks
" they bestow.
The main grumbles used to be about lack of support after 5.30, but that's been improved recently. In the old days, when the firm was still insurance-led, this was largely because most people pushed off home by 6pm. Nowadays that's less likely to be the case, especially as overtime is paid (though not for lawyer types, obviously). The firm is aiming for a 50/50 split between insurance and commercial work, and this has meant an inevitable increase in hours: gone are the days when you'd find yourself home in time for Eastenders. But insiders report that they still work relatively civilised hours in comparison with larger corporate firms. And the people come in for tremendous praise, described as "genuinely friendly
" and - hold the front page -"people you would be friends with outside of work
". It really does seem to be a happy ship holding "Very friendly people. Very clever people. Very commercial people."
One correspondent said "I love my life
", a phrase we never thought we'd ever hear from a lawyer. Though there is some flak from those in the insurance team who fear being moved to the "low cost claims factory
" in Bristol. Many others, however, share the view of the respondent who says the firm is "Clearly going places. Excited to be along for the ride
Which is just as well, because pay (for departments outside corporate at least) is hardly market-leading (and the support staff holiday allowance seems a bit tight, too). But then profits haven't been stellar either, and in 2013/14 they dropped for the first time in five years, from £26.8 million to £26 million. Though management have said that's a result of heavy investment in the preceding year, including the opening of a new office in Singapore.
In the meantime, the work/life balance is a pretty good one. And it's one of the few City firms to have a completely equity partnership, so it's worth hanging in there to get your name on the letterhead.
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