want to leave"
Thousands of people working in private practice in the UK have been spilling the beans in RollOnFriday's survey to determine the Best Law Firms to Work At 2022.
Lawyers and business services staff have been commenting on what most makes them stay at their firms, and what most makes them want to leave.
A lawyer at Dentons said the "ability to work from home" was their main reason for staying at the firm, while a business services employee at Baker McKenzie said that "a lack of commute for 4 days a week" was "a big bonus".
Conversely, a White & Case employee said that she would consider leaving the firm if it "reduced the current flexibility with hybrid working and forced everyone back into the office." And a Macfarlanes employee said he would leave if the firm made him attend "more days onsite." An Osborne Clarke lawyer said they didn't want to work in the London office as it "is absolutely freezing" and "so uncomfortable to work there."
A Fieldfisher trainee said he wanted to leave the firm as there was "no flexibility for WFH" and that trainees were expected to be in the office "despite no one else being in."
The collegiate nature at firms was highlighted by several respondents. An Ashurst lawyer praised the firm's "team spirit" and said his colleagues "had each other's backs." A lawyer at Burges Salmon said she felt "valued", unlike her previous stint at a Magic Circle firm.
An "amazing culture of supportiveness" was hailed by a White & Case staffer. And RPC was lauded for its "people" as "everyone, including the partners are genuinely great to work with." An Osborne Clarke lawyer said that "generally the firm still attracts friendly, laid back people who make the more annoying days on the job more bearable."
On the flip side, BLM was criticised for "a lack of real caring" and a "superficial friendliness" among staff, with no meeting ever getting "side-lined by chat for more than about 30 seconds."
Work/life balance was highlighted by many. A Bird & Bird staffer said that he could see his young children for dinner a couple of times a week, which was enough of a reason to stay. However, a Debevoise & Plimpton employee said that he would consider leaving due to the "long hours, impacting on family life".
A Trowers & Hamlins lawyer said that she would consider leaving due to "the expectation that you will drop everything to work on evenings and weekends when a partner deems it required, without any consideration of what you might have on, and without any thought as to the need for a break, and without thanks."
For a Linklaters lawyer it was a double-edged sword. He said he would consider leaving in order to have "hobbies and make plans I can keep." But noted that "it's quite hard to leave somewhere that is fundamentally well-run, fair and structured, which is respected and prestigious in the market, where you feel like you're building a career, and which pays you well."
The quality of work was cited by many as a reason to stay. "We are always at the forefront of the market," said a Freshfields partner, "I have never worked on a transaction where we have been out-gunned by the other side and the quality of the work and clients is second to none." Although a lawyer at the firm said they would consider leaving for "a life which is not full of partners with god complexes."
A Kirkland & Ellis lawyer said he remained at the firm due to "the fact that you're working on the real market leading deals that got you to apply into law in the first place." Although he said he most wanted to leave as there was a "complete lack of any time outside of work - there's no such thing as a protected weekend and the expectation post-Covid is that you're available 24/7."
A number of respondents mentioned the perks, from private healthcare to office gyms, as a reason to stay at their respective firms. A Clifford Chance employee said the "spin studio and pool" was a big draw. For work-based perks, an Ashurst lawyer highlighted "mini-secondments working from an overseas office, with the firm subsidising travel and accommodation - these allow you to feel like an 'international lawyer' and make the annual leave and travelling options stretch further."
"The cafe has been completely free since the return to the office, and we have been informed this is to be until further notice," said a Travers Smith lawyer. A senior lawyer at Bird & Bird praised the "amazing canteen" with "a free coffee bar that served coffin decorated brownies and witches hat cookies for Halloween - beat that, Magic Circle!" And at Osborne Clarke there is "free fruit in the office and cake on a Monday".
The divide between lawyers and other members of staff was highlighted by some respondents as a reason for wanting to leave. A business services member of staff at Baker McKenzie said there was a "lack of appreciation/value attached to anyone who is not a lawyer." And at Norton Rose Fulbright, an employee said there was "the very explicit and differentiated fee earner / fee burner culture."
Salary was raised a key reason to stay or go. A Sidley Austin lawyer said they were happy at the US firm due to the "money per hour ratio." Whereas a Slaughter and May lawyer said of their pay that "out of touch partners are always the last to begrudgingly offer anything offered by other firms." And a Womble Bond Dickinson lawyer said the "uncompetitive pay" was leading to "all the juniors leaving around us" which was "demoralising at best with no real sign of improvement on the horizon."
A number of respondents highlighted there was a balance to be struck for salary. An Addleshaw Goddard partner said: "I could earn more by decamping to a US outfit to be beasted by ruthless Americans on a series of soulless identikit mega deals, but that isn’t a trade I’m interested in making." A Bird & Bird associate agreed that they "could undoubtedly get better pay elsewhere, but don't fancy being chained to a desk."
Should you stay or should you go? Take the Law Firm Satisfaction Survey below: