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Firm of the Year 2017: The Best-Managed Firms
10 February 2017
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Osborne Clarke is the best-managed law firm in the UK, according to the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2017 survey.

The Bristol firm, which came 2nd in the overall results, received 89% from staff, the highest mark this year and the second year in a row that OC has taken the Best Management title.  

Staff said the leadership was "friendly", "open" and "makes you feel valued". "I joined OC after reading the RoF survey results from last year", said one associate, "and I can honestly say it is a great place to work. The senior management and partners are so approachable". OC has, said others, "charismatic and proper leaders" who appear "determined to keep the OC brand and culture (for now)". It is "run like the best bits of a corporate. Involve everyone, agree a strategy, get buy-in, then go for it (together) and let the Exec Board and management team lead". Managing Partner Ray Berg is "a total legend", said a lawyer (not Berg) who "genuinely has people's best interests at heart but without losing commercial perspective". But it's a team effort, said others, and the "fab atmosphere" is helped by "having people in charge who really give a shit about the firm and its people".

Mills & Reeve was rated a hair's breadth behind OC on 88%. M&R's management received credit for the firm's "rock-solid" financial performance and for sharing profits at all levels, which "creates a real buzz". Newish MP Claire Clarke and SP Justin Ripman are, said staff "pushing some great new stuff", presumably not crack, and it now "feels like there's a more cohesive feeling across the offices". They are also, vouched one lawyer, "just regular people who you can go for drink with rather than power hungry ego-maniacs". In fact, being too nice is one of the only complaints raised, with a couple of hard souls saying that management "can be too lenient sometimes with poor performers".

In third place on 85%, Mishcon de Reya has "superb leadership". Senior management, headed by distinctly un-bland MP Kevin Gold, is "excellent". Staff were pleased the firm had achieved growth without merging, despite a worry that the "continued expansion puts the small firm 'vibe' at risk". Mishcon has already "become victims of our own success" after moving to a "swanky" new office in 2015 and then outgrowing it, forcing management  to move the real estate team next door (easy choice).



Travers Smith took fourth place with 84%, where management are "doing a great job of dragging the firm into the 21st century", taking a "progressive stance on things such as agile working, which is a breath of fresh air". Communication is "much improved over the past couple of years", said others, with "genuine efforts to communicate strategy" and listen to staff. Apparently, Managing Partner David Patient "knows the names of all the trainees and will always stop to say hello". Patient is cited for his "compassionately assertive leadership", and, along with the Senior Partner, they "seem totally committed to things like diversity, CSR, agile working and working efficiently". Management, said an associate, "really seems to care about everyone, which in other firms nowadays is not always the case..."

Firm of the Year 2017 Burges Salmon came fifth with 81%. It had "a clear idea of what it is about"  and "is incredibly well managed. Things run very smoothly".  It "has a clear way of running things. Granted, it's very conservative, but that means you know what you can expect". Strategy-wise, says another lawyer, "there are never really any shocks, which I enjoy - we're just about the most even-keeled firm imaginable, no ill-advised mergers or random overseas offices likely to pop up any time soon". It's not just continuity, say other lawyers: "All credit to management - right from the very top there is a real employee-friendly feel to the place". Burges Salmon Managing Partner Peter Morris, said a lawyer, "has remembered my name since day one".

  Alan Fatclown was surprised that management remembered his name  

Bird & Bird scored an impressive 81%, and the key management decision which won it fifth place was moving to new digs. Historically the office and the salary have let 2Birds down, said a lawyer, "but the firm has moved to an incredible new office and hiked its salary up so credit where credit is due". The brainwave was taking the "shared staff floor from a dungeon-like area underneath the IT department to an 11th floor open space with amazing views over the city". There is "such a different atmosphere now that we are all in one building. Having an entire floor dedicated to a restaurant means that people have lunch "together in big groups every day - it's  more like working at a trendy start-up than a city firm". 

Blue-blooded corporate boutique Macfarlanes took seventh place with 79%. scoring highly for trying to get less blue-blooded. Management "increasingly listens to and actively responds to feedback from solicitors", said staff, giving a "real sense that our opinions are taken seriously and actions are taken accordingly - not always perfect results, but the effort is there".  While progress may appear to move "at a somewhat glacial pace", the top bods are "keen to move with the times and shed their stuffy image". The firm has, said one female lawyer, "been willing to embrace more flexible ways of working" and "been very supportive of me as a working mother". The decision to move into new offices which "look like they're gonna be excellent" also generated plaudits. Excitement, said a lawyer, "is running high, AND in 2017 we're promised a set of new partners who aren't 100% pale and male! Here's crossing our fingers for a token woman!"  

Pinsent Masons came eight with 78%, for "clear vision from management". They "run things prudently" said lawyers, which included "cracking down on some of the old school partners who think their only role in life is to dispense pearls of wisdom from their ivory towers whilst worrying about billing later". Just behind with 78%, Clarke Willmott received high scores but, oddly, mostly negative comments. The firm was "run by a group of three people out of Bristol who use the rest of the office network as a cash cow", said lawyers. Perhaps proving another's point that CW "could be better at self-promotion - it does some excellent work with well-known clients but needs to shout about it more".

Two US firms, Mayer Brown and Shearman & Sterling (which was joint Firm of the Year 2016) rounded out the top ten with a solid 76%. But credit should also be given to the 16 other firms which managed to score 70% or higher. As for those at the bottom...click here for the awful truth.

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anonymous user
11/02/2017 15:36
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Nice to see Pinsents score highly here - the current management team are doing a v good job indeed
  

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