Farrers is, of course, best known for being the Queen's solicitors. It's acted for the Royal Family for over seventy years and its private client work is top notch, as are related fields such as agriculture and family. The firm's takeover of Crockers Oswald Hickson ramped up its media department and rather surprisingly it also does some interesting corporate work.
The firm also welcomed the departing private client team from Nabarro, swelling an already sizeable department. Whether this compensates for the departure of star matrimonial lawyer Fiona Shackleton to Payne Hicks Beach (taking the Prince of Wales with her) remains to be seen. As does the more general question of whether such a focussed, old-fashioned firm can continue to prosper – in recent years even the Queen turned to Herbert Smith Freehills for her litigation.
Still, all seems well enough for the moment. Lateral hires are still attracted to the firm, and it manages to bag some interesting instructions. In the last couple of years it has acted for the Natural History Museum in the settlement of Aboriginal Remains claims. And the firm was the official legal partner to the British Olympic Association for London's Olympic bid. The fact that it worked on the 1948 London Games can't have done any harm, even if the role of official provider of legal services to the Games ultimately went to Freshfields.
Farrers convincingly demonstrates that it is possible to make decent money out of private client work. Turnover for the last financial year was up from £50.8 million to £57.5 million. Whatever its HR department might say, this is not the sort of firm that will appeal to everyone. This is the stomping ground of the pashmina brigade, double barrelled names abound, and you won't find many trainees who speak like John Prescott. It is a very conservative firm - having practised from the same building for over 200 years doesn't exactly speak of trend setting innovation. And assistants complain that the offices at the back of that building feel like they're 200 years old as well. Although we are told that the ancient loos have recently been renovated.
The hours are civilised, it has a reputation that belies its relatively small size and it clearly puts its money where its mouth is when it comes to work/life balance – even part time lawyers have been known to enter the partnership. But compared to arch-rival Withers it now looks hopelessly crusty: and completely outclassed on pay.
Staff responding to the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year penned some negative responses (and not enough answered to qualify Farrers for the results table). One non-fee-earner dubbed her Farrer & Co colleagues "self-righteous t***s" for "thinking they are better than anyone else because they get to send the Queen a Christmas card". Another non-fee-earner at Farrers called the culture "toxic", saying she had "seen girls crying in the toilets". However, others disagreed, one lawyer said "people presume that the firm is snooty but it couldn't be more the reverse".
In the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2017 survey, on the negative side, said one junior, "the cookies used to be made in-house, and were simply divine". However, "they've replaced them with these shop bought monstrosities - an altogether unsatisfactory affair". But relatively bearable.
There are "completely bonkers partners", but "in the eccentric, endearing uncle/aunt sense". Another junior solicitor said there was "decent hours, a nice culture and good work", but these "come at a price. Sadly that price is our price; we should get paid more". Though another insists, "The bumf they sell to future trainees is, mostly, true. It really is a nice place to work".
Farrers doesn't appeal to everyone - but then, it doesn't want to. You will probably already know if it's the firm for you.