Norton Rose Fulbright
Norton Rose joined the club of truly global firms in 2012 when it merged with US firm Fulbright & Jaworski LLP, to become Norton Rose Fulbright. The firm is now based in over 50 cities, and has a pretty hefty headcount of 3,800 lawyers.
For such a big firm we've heard that it's a friendly place, with trainees and new assistants reporting that they are warmly welcomed and very quickly get into the swing of things. The general view is that it is a big City firm that is pleasant to work at, with good work and none of the hothouse culture found in some of its competitors. Well, maybe some. Whatever's in the water at NRP, it's - the firm usually performs well in the Firm of the Year Survey, especially for the white chocolate and macadamia cookies. These delicacies are, however, always out of stock, victims of their own success. Only slightly less impressive are the toilets, which make a sound like a "whale's mating call when you flush".
Obviously - this being a City firm - the banking and asset finance groups are very busy, and long hours are required, but even here the atmosphere is decent enough. Pay is OK (and - supposedly - completely merit-based once you qualify so the salary bands to the right are just to provide an indication of the wedge associates 1PQE and above can expect), and a bonus kicks in once you bill in excess of 1,500 hours. This starts at 5%, and rises to 30% for those who bill more than 2,500 hours. Although if that's you, all you'll be fit to spend it on is psychiatric care.
Despite that, the firm says that it takes work/life balance very seriously. Certainly there's "no face time required". There are pastoral schemes in place for assistants and mentoring programmes for trainees, and several support staff, assistants and partners take advantage of part time or flexible working schemes. Unusually for a big firm, it's possible for a part time assistant to be promoted straight to the partnership. And you get to work in the very smart London Bridge HQ overlooking the river, Sadiq Khan's office and Tower Bridge.
On the downside, trainees say that there's not as much hands on experience in departments outside of property and litigation, but such is the lot at all large firms working on billion pound deals. In general, training here seems to be, well, a real laugh. Bank on spending at least one of your six seats overseas - and, if you're really lucky, two. And there's oodles of sporting and drinking activity.
The firm got rather a pasting in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2020 Survey. The management team “are genuinely very nice people, but there's a tendency for them to chicken out of making big and difficult decisions”, said one lawyer. “Their standard response to any kind of 'issue' or 'market trend' is to spend millions of pounds on a consultancy firm/hiring new 'business executives' to brainstorm 'commercial solutions'.... there are now more business services staff floating around the 8th floor than lawyers, and that's despite moving half of the support teams to Newcastle”.
A colleague said the consultants’ cost cutting measures "seem to focus on getting rid of the small, but welcome, perks while not dealing at all with the real money drains (particularly the useless IT systems and the absurd number of non-fee earners)”.
But the culture remains "good" though it "could be better (and used to be)". A colleague said the legal market "is changing - it has been a difficult juggling act to retain our culture alongside a five-year programme to gear us up for these changes".
Final word to the most excitable associate in law firm history: "A great law firm, the perfect balance...top quality work, top quality people. The meeting rooms have toffee crisps - for free. It is like if a law firm was also a children's story." Hmm.