The merger of two UK firms Wragge & Co and LG went live on 1st May 2014 creating the £170m firm Wragge Lawrence Graham & Co. LG had been looking for a merger partner for a while and it wasn't having much luck. It was rebuffed by Field Fisher Waterhouse and even rejected by two time Golden Turd winner Irwin Mitchell.
But Birmingham-based Wragge & Co came to its rescue in what could be more of a takeover than a merger, with Wragge's financials looking more healthy than LG's.
In June 2015 it made the surprise announcement that it was also merging with Canadian firm Gowlings, creating a transatlantic firm of around 620 partners, and offices in 10 countries. In February 2016 the firm was rechristened Gowling WLG, and it's a shame that the firm has now lost its Wragge.
In the UK, the firm has offices in London and Birmingham. It has fared reasonably well in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey in recent years. Although in the 2021 survey it slipped down the rankings, scoring 57%.
Here's what staff have said about the firm over the last couple of surveys:
"There has been a real push on career development - a renewed sense of direction", said a male senior solicitor. And in London, "The office gets quiet after 18:30 and is dead within an hour". As for the loos, "A massive improvement since we moved to offices in More London. They are gently lit, sealed and silent. More like places for quiet contemplation than noisy shit boxes."
It's "improved a lot recently", agreed a female senior solicitor. Although a colleague said it was "Lagging behind the others in Birmingham, and losing headcount as a result". Management has "gone very quiet since the 'combination'", he added, suggesting, "I'm not sure if they know what happens next".
As for career development, "Even on track, partnership seems a distant dream", said a senior associate, "but I work with decent people doing decent work so will sit it out".
One associate criticised the "siloed team structure" which "means that partners are only interested in you delivering their work and have no interest in your career path".
An NQ in Brum said the pay was "Not acceptable in the Birmingham office, considering the hours we work. Pays like a proper regional firm, works you like you're in a City powerhouse". Then again there are Mars Bar cakes which "rightly have a great reputation".
A junior solicitor said "honestly just can't even make a joke about how bad the pay is". It's £58k for a senior associate in Birmingham, said a lawyer fitting that bill, who said it was "pretty dire considering some of the City hours and, supposedly, City level work that comes in. Why I haven't packed my bags for a City firm, I don't know".
A senior solicitor chipped in that "Pay is a bit basic but they don't have to supplement their salaries with compensation for working with T**ts". So, "All in all acceptable as the bonuses exist and the hours are easy". And, she said, there are "Genuinely decent people. Slightly unsettling given the psychopathic narcissists from previous firms."
"Get paid much less than MC, but have rediscovered evenings and weekends and no longer have panic attacks every time the phone beeps", said a senior solicitor.
"It’s fine unless you work in corporate/finance/IP in which case it’s pretty poor given the hours", countered another senior solicitor. "No firm bonus - just £100 Christmas ‘gift’, which makes the long hours worth it" (sarcasm).
Others agreed that yes, the pay wasn't super-huge, but that was because of the healthy work/life balance. "Not the highest, even compared to similar firms, but good for what is expected in terms of hours", said a solicitor.
There was lots of praise for that work/life balance. "The office is a ghost town from 7pm. My hours were worse in the West End!" said a happy lateral hire.
"Real focus on flexibility and no culture of staying late just for the sake of it", agreed a colleague.
"Partners lead from the front", said a colleague. "If it is getting late (e.g. after 8pm), a partner or director will often ask a junior if they still need to be in and help if possible."
Others said there had been a move to encouraging agile working which as been "a big positive in improving work/life balance". On the downside, GWLG is apparently "A bit vanilla on the gossip front". Boo.
"Hello weekends!!!! And evenings!!! And holidays!!" said another. "It’s a pretty easy life here - low targets, and if you meet the low target, partners think you are a mega committed workhorse", they added.
"Still the friendly Wragge & Co under the bonnet," opined a senior lawyer.
Lawyers at Gowling praise the "supportive culture", "first rate training", "excellent quality of work" and, more importantly, "lots of boozing".
Plus "generally people aren't dicks" and there are "genuinely great lawyers to learn from". Although, like most firms, there are still "some partners who treat you like you're fortunate to be making money for them."
As for the management "Like a good waiter, the fact that I don’t really notice them is indicative that they must be doing a decent job", suggested one senior associate.