Clyde & Co
Back in the day, Clydes, along with Holman Fenwick & Willan and Ince & Co, was traditionally one of the three great shipping firms in the City. This wasn't necessarily a good thing: collision work was declining thanks to better maritime regulation and training, and protection and indemnity clubs were, well, clubbing together to drive their lawyers' rates down as well as bringing more work in-house. As European expertise in the field increased, more work was also going to Netherlands, Belgium and Germany, whose rates are generally cheaper than in the UK.
So Clydes decided to diversify and expand. And they've done a pretty decent job of under the stewardship of CEO Peter Hasson, a non-lawyer from a finance background.
A while on from Clyde & Co's merger with troubled Barlow Lyde & Gilbert ('takeover' might be more accurate) the dust has well and truly settled. As the name suggests, Clydes was very much in the driving seat when it
subsumed merged with BLG in 2011. Turnover has been rising since 2005 - credit crunch or not. In the 2014/15 financial year, the firm boasted revenue of £395m, up 8% from the previous year, while profit per equity partner rose 10% to £660,000 in 2014/15. In 2015/16, revenue climbed again, to £447m, while PEP rose to £665k.
Clydes currently has 45 offices worldwide and it makes a big play of its international presence, which is perhaps unsurprising given its growth rate. Clydes' Asia offices saw an increase of 30% in revenue for 2014/2015, while revenue in the Middle East and North Africa grew by 15%. Recent additions to the Clydes' empire included offices in South Africa and Brisbane in 2014 and a merger with Simpson & Marwick in 2015. In May 2016 it opened an office in Miami.
A good spread of international offices means that there are opportunities for trainees to spend a seat overseas - in Dubai, Hong Kong, Singapore or, err, Piraeus. We know where we'd rather go. Back in the UK, aside from London, the firm also has offices in Oxford, Manchester and Guildford. The latter famously pays London rates. Rather less famously it also expects its lawyers to work London hours, but given the lower living costs which normally come with provincial offices this still sounds like a pretty good deal.
Shipping is still important, but insurance & reinsurance, and aviation, are also very strong sectors. As far as service areas go, although corporate and commercial is growing, the majority of Clydes' work is still litigation-based rather than corporate. Inevitably disputes work doesn't require the level of all-nighters you'll experience at more transaction-led firms. Whilst Clydes is now a proper full service firm, it's possibly not the first choice if you want to specialise in M&A. There is "lots of client contact due to the nature of the insurance industry", said a solicitor, but, said another, career development is less hot "if you're not an insurance litigator".
Associates, on the whole, praise the good work life balance, saying that the firm has "no face time culture". It also seems to be a friendly place with "very sociable" partners. "Regionally", said a lawyer, there is "decent pay, nice office, good work/life balance, non-dickhead partners". And staff are happy with the swanky London office, commending the "cracking view from the canteen" (which "conveniently distracts from the food").
Pay seems to be the biggest gripe, with one lawyer suggesting that "the senior equity partners suck the marrow out of the profits while the middle ranks scamper for greener pastures in the hope of earning more". And while expansion has brought revenue and a buzz, a couple of lawyers worried that "multiple mergers and aggressive expansion - over 5 years it has almost tripled in size and has opened more than 20 new offices" have caused some "deterioration" in the Clydes culture. Management, they said, "seems more focused on world domination".
The negative points mean that the firm sits in the latter half of RollOnFriday's Firm of the Year table. Grumbles aside, many still praised the working environment, with one lawyer saying there is a "very supportive management" that doesn't heap on the pressure "in terms of billing". Allied with an expanding overseas network, rapidly rising profits and reasonably civilised hours, it's a solid choice. And club biscuits are available in meeting rooms.
(NB - salaries and LPC/GDL grants stated are for London. In the UK regions they are less: a student gets a grant of £6k for the GDL, and a first seat trainee in Manchester gets a salary of £25k).