Donkey's years ago - way back in 2004 - a strange mish-mash of blue-blooded lawyers finally decided to ditch their notoriously odd 'town and country' management structure and create something new and exciting. Offices were demerged all over the place, and, from the smouldering ashes, lawyers emerged into the sunlight of a new firm - all streamlined and polished - blinking. But what sort of world would it be at the newly-formed Bevan Brittan? A happy place of rainbows and singing birds?
Well, perhaps not. The faltering economy quickly put paid to the happy hunting grounds of the mid-Noughties and the firm suffered three rounds of redundancies in quick succession. In 2008, 34 support staff went across all its offices. Swiftly followed by six lawyers. The partners explained that that it no longer needed such a large headcount now that the demerger had bedded down; this is a necessary evil to place the firm in a strong position in a tricky market. Hmm. That's the same "tricky market" which left profits per equity partner at a healthy £286,000. Hmm.
Then in December 2011, the firm outsourced its back office to Intelligent Office. It sparked accusations of mismanagement when 27 of the outsourced staff were told in February 2012 that they were in line for redundancy.
So what do you come to Bevan Brittan for? Well, it's a public sector powerhouse, first and foremost. Which must be fun in austerity Britain. To be fair, we're told that at least the firm is "very open" about staffing cuts - which is more than plenty of firms can say. But it does mean that - if you're still on the staff here - you're likely to be putting in long hours, simply because there are fewer of you around. Correspondents told RollOnFriday of "private sector hours on public sector money" - which may well be a tough sell when it comes to recruitment. And pay's a tricky one here - whilst the PEP figure is nice, those same partners aren't too generous with handing it out to those remaining in the offices: one senior lawyer claims "no pay rise for four years whilst PEP rose - it's all about the money these days."
It looks like management have realised that there may well be lean times ahead - especially following the firm's loss of some of its core work from the NHS Litigation Authority. There's been a definite attempt to move away from its public sector practice and develop a more balanced profile in the private arena (and there's no doubt that there's been award-worthy success in the M&A team). However, its reputation for public sector projects remains strong - it was appointed to five out of seven of the Office of Government Contracts' panels, advised on the largest defence PFI scheme (the Future Tanker Aircraft Scheme) and a couple of years back landed the plum position of joint legal adviser on the PPP/PFI scheme to overhaul Glasgow's healthcare system (allegedly beating some Magic Circle firms plus various Scottish heavyweights to the job).
Bevan Brittan doesn't need to aspire to corporate domination, so if you're looking to make your mark through big ticket corporate and/or financial work it may not be the best choice. But it does attempt to balance of public and private sector work, and a particularly good reputation for PFI deals. Trainees are recruited to each of the firm's offices - so take your pick from the capital, Brizzle or Brum - and are expected to get their hands dirty from the get-go. If you want an insight into life as a BB trainee, the gut-churning video on the website provided a toe-curling insight. But sadly it's been taken down.
One thing definitely worth noting is that BB will only give you £5k to fund your way through law school, irrespective of whether you're doing one or two years. Frugal.
Too few BB staff filled in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey to qualify for the results. Those who did respond said that most people are "down to earth, friendly and approachable". Management is a "bit of a lottery", though, and "a lot of the partners are very smug about their perceived brilliance and seem to think we are lucky to be employed here", creating a "real hierarchy and us and them attitude". Career progression can be "tough" and staff say there are "very few perks above the basics". with "low pay, especially in London". But there is at least a "high number of female partners". As you'd hope given its focus, there are also "a lot of people with considerable expertise in the specialist area of public sector work".