Jones Day made its big move into London in 2003 when it took over Gouldens - a traditional mid-sized City firm known for its high profits and stellar salaries. Despite initial wobbles, it is one of the most profitable, as well as one of the largest, law firms in the world, with an enormous reputation for massive M&A.
The London office services some major property developers, as well as a host of private equity and hedge funds. It's a pretty major force in litigation, too, and has run some noteworthy cases through the courts in recent times including defending MasterCard against Quinn in a 19bn claim, the biggest UK lawsuit in history.
In 2020, the firm also faced allegations that it had hushed up a Covid outbreak in its London office.
Turning to lighter news, the firm did achieve Bonkers Law firm status thanks to a grandiose video.
For the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey, a special thanks to all those at Jones Day who wrote in, despite a lawyer revealing that "the managing partner once did a presentation for associates branding those who leak to RollOnFriday as “Whiners” and with a big stop sign across the word".
Here's a summary of what its
whiners people had to say across the different categories:
As with many a UK office of a big global firm, there are complaints about "opaque" central management from the US, with one senior Jones Dayer worrying about "Lots of senior Americans descending, but with no clear purpose". Fears that "everything goes through the US" have been realised in recent times as several UK partners have been moved to Of Counsel status - not a big deal across the pond, where the two titles have more parity, but a humiliating demotion here. One partner observes that this is the firms non-too-subtle way of suggesting it "wants them to leave".
One unhappy lawyer said that "US management is clueless about how to do business outside the US" and "partners are on the phone plotting their getaway."
Although, some junior lawyers had more positive things to say, as one praised the firm for its "flat management structure" and "lack of hierarchy."
Uniquely, the firm runs a non-rotational training system, where trainees are expected to knock on doors and seek out their own work rather than being assigned to a partner in any particular department. Instead they share an office with a peer. Whilst this certainly eliminates the chances of your being stuck in a slow department for six months, insiders readily agree that it might not be suitable for wallflowers and you need plenty of "self-motivation". However, one trainee comments that "There's a good reason no one else does a non-rotational system, it's shit and doesn't work".
However, others champion the trainee system, saying it gives a control over workload, a “high level of responsibility” and "great client contact". Others claims it "gives you a far better education in City law". One trainee reports partners treat trainees with "a much greater deal of respect than at other firms" because they are dependent on trainees coming to ask for work and to keep them coming back. The system also allows trainees "to see projects through from start to finish" and to focus on "areas of interest".
Jones Day got points from some juniors for its supportive working environment. The firm will "support associates' efforts to develop new skills and practice areas” and partners "seem to be care about your career goals and general professional development".
Although, not all juniors were blessed with diligent mentors, as one revealed: "I'm here now filling this in at 9.30pm as a break from the work I have to get done overnight before the partner arrives in the morning - about 10am, as he usually goes for breakfast at his club - when he will change the reference to his and send it onto the client without reading it."
The firm pitches itself as a realistic competitor to the Magic Circle (hmm), but even some lawyers at the firm are unlikely to go along with this. One associate said the firm had "a nasty high street firm culture", while "lateral partners are mindlessly recruited on 3 year deals and then leave immediately after once they find out what a shitshow London management is". Another lawyer said "it has a bloated real estate department who advise on 'exciting' projects like parking lots".
Others were more positive, highlighting the "high-profile clients" and big ticket work. There was also general praise for a "collegiate culture" where "people treat you well".
"To paraphrase Busted, it's what I go to work for", said a Jones Day trainee, who claimed their cohort "would put the chorus line in a West End show to shame".
One disgruntled lawyer who expected a US salary complained that the firm "pays now at silver circle rates."
Others were more positive. "The secret pay structure has its critics", said a solicitor, "but I've always found it successful in achieving its goal of not having solicitors constantly comparing themselves to the person in the next office".
A junior lawyer agreed: "Top-level work with extremely clever lawyers for good pay".
There were the usual grumbles about long hours, but if you want to take home a decent wedge you have to expect to burn the midnight oil occasionally. Chargeable targets are officially a reasonable 1500-1700 hours a year, but insiders say that 2000 is probably more like it (not that bonuses make up for it).
Another said there were "good people, and a far better than average work/life balance v salary ratio".