Clarke Willmott's roots can be traced back to 1888 when the original firm was founded by Charles Peard Clarke. Frederick William Willmott stepped on board in 1912 and they were joined by Charles’s son Geoffrey in 1925, becoming Clarke Willmott & Clarke. In 2002 the firm dropped one ‘Clarke’ from the letterhead to become Clarke Willmott.
CW historically operated solely out of offices in the South West. Its head office is still in Bristol with its second largest base in Taunton. Since the early noughties the firm has added offices across the land in Southampton (2001), Birmingham (2004), Manchester (2010), London (2011) and Cardiff (2015).
Staff in Bristol will be treated to a sparkling new building in spring 2023, which the firm says will also deliver on its commitment to achieving net zero by 2035. And CW is also sprucing up the Taunton office with a major refurb.
Clarke Willmott has more than 650 staff in total, including around 250 lawyers and more than 100 partners. Turnover for the financial year 2020/2021 was £53 million, with profitability at £9.4 million and PEP at £362k.
Recent big-ticket work at CW includes: successfully representing Bath Recreation Limited (the freehold owner of “the Rec” in Bath) in a Court of Appeal matter; acting for AD Comms (part of the Panasonic Group) as the main sub-contractor for an infrastructure and fibre services project on behalf of Cellnex UK and Network Rail on the Brighton Mainline; and advising leading international sports agency Wasserman Media Group on its acquisition of Team Sauerland, a multi-corporate group based in Germany.
CW's key sectors and clients include: Real Estate Investors (e.g. Mapeley, Ashville, Marcol, Mileway); Real Estate Developers (e.g. Sutton Harbour Group PLC, Summerfield Developments, Homes England); Social housing (e.g. Stonewater Limited, London & Quadrant Housing, Sovereign Housing, The Guinness Partnership); Public sector (e.g. The Insolvency Service, Bath, North East Somerset Council, Financial Conduct Authority, Welsh Government); Financial institutions (e.g. Lloyds, HSBC, Santander and challenger banks); Retailers (e.g. Burger King, Lidl, Fat Face, Farrow & Ball, Orvis); Housebuilders (e.g. Barratt David Wilson, Vistry, Metis Homes, Crest and Mactaggart and Mickel); Sport (e.g., Decathlon, Wasserman, Surfing England); and Private client, Private Wealth and Family matters.
On the social side, the firm offers a range of perks and wellbeing initiatives including yoga, fortnightly CW Coffee Club where people from across the business can meet on teams and get to know each other, book club and a wide selection of sports and social gatherings.
The path to qualification at CW is slightly different to other firms, as it typically recruits paralegals who undertake at least a 12 month stint, following which they can then apply to be a supported trainee (and take the SQE route to qualification).
Breaking down the male/female ratio at Clarke Willmott: 71% of staff are female; 60% of qualified legal roles are held by women; 38% of the board are women; and two out of five of CW's managing directors are female.
The firm has performed excellently in the recent RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work at surveys. Work/life balance was rated particularly highly, with many staff applauding the firm for giving them the flexibility to choose where they wanted to work.
"The changes brought about by Covid have been embraced as a long term goal - flexible working is almost a right rather than something you have to justify," said a partner. "I manage my own time to do my work and meet family commitments," said another lawyer.
"I love the option to work from home whenever I want or go into the office," said a business services member of staff. "There is no comparison," said a staffer who had moved from another firm, "the flexibility and work life balance at Clarke Willmott is second to none. You are never made to feel bad about it either."
The firm was also praised for its culture. Many staff felt they were given a "voice" that was listened to by the firm, demonstrated by CW carrying out "a lot of staff surveys" with "actions taken directly from the results".
While some CW employees said that pay at the firm was not the highest in the market, many felt that the decent work/life balance and culture made up for it.
Management was described as "fair, kind and transparent" and commended for communicating "regularly across the business". One member of staff said: "it feels like a very flat structure with everyone being accessible and personable. A refreshing change from any other law firm I am aware of!"
CW staff were also generally positive about career development. "I feel I have received 100% support in all promotion applications and progressions," said one lawyer. "The quality of work and level of responsibility is also great."