Born in Northampton, Shoosmiths now has 13 offices, all in the UK, home to 195 partners and 1,521 lawyers and business support employees.
Clients the firm cites include Hewlett-Packard and Krispy Kreme, and in April 2019 the firm announced a turnover of £137 million, up 7% from the year before. Net profit also rose, up 6% to £37.9m.
Shoosmiths works to a simple formula: a can-do ethos, values that are much more than words on paper, and the agility to find the best way for each individual client - whether that's ways of working, pricing structures or just innovative ideas that make a real commercial difference.
Lawyers at the firm who responded to the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey were generally positive in their comments.
A junior solicitor said pay "feels relatively competitive with the market" in their experience. Another said pay wasn't great, but the trade-off was reasonable hours.
"Hours are generally pretty good", said another. There was "no expectation of 'face time'. Unless it's manic, usually out of the door between 6-6:30pm".
"Bosses can be demanding but there is no requirement for 'face time'", agreed a colleague. "Agile working allows working from home which is great."
A partner backed up that perception. "My team can work agile and I don't mind whether they're at the office, home, at the park or on the school run at any point in time," they said, "provided they get their hours on the sheet and get back to me on their working days within 4 hours or the end of the day (whichever comes first) and they invariably do".
He noted, though, that "some of my fellow partners take a less enlightened attitude". Thos who require their team to show face-time "are, in my experience, utter [unprintables], believe me", he added.
As for culture, "Having worked for a few larger firms, Shoosmiths is by far and away the friendliest, most supportive and most down to earth", said one junior solicitor.
"We're not the best, but we're not the worst", said a partner. "We're doing OK to retain people".
Although watch out for the partner who "idolises Harvey Specter from Suits. He says he loves him. In fact he tries to base his own persona around him - but fails"
The hot-desking has its critics, and opinion on the "free fruit throughout the week" is, surprisingly, divided. It "gets fingered and is more or less inedible by the end of the week", said one complainant (just wash it first, surely?).
Here's a run through of comments received in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2020 Survey:
"I've come through the ranks from trainee to partner in 9 years", said a lawyer at Shoosmiths. The firm "has been brilliant in supporting my career development", they said.
A trainee complained that "my mates in City firms are doing IPOs, I'm doing £150k commercial agreements using Practical Law". But others vouched that the investment in their development "is excellent".
"We're not expected to put in extreme hours but so much time is wasted on pointless meetings that achieve nothing" said a frustrated partner at Shoosmiths.
Many staff praised the firm for its agile working, but one partner said the firm needed to invest in other areas to improve work/life balance: "the lack of BD/marketing resources means that partners have to fee-earn, supervise, manage, do strategy AND fly solo on business development."
Shoosmiths was rated excellently for management in the 2020 survey despite a few aggrieved comments along the lines of, “Imagine trappist monks trying to organise an orgy in a brewery...and you're not even close.” But the firm was cheered for its internal noticeboard, where staff could post suggestions or complaints and management responds. “Some of the stuff on there is as stupid as you would expect, but it's an entertaining way to pass 10 minutes”, commented one appreciative lawyer.
"There is a culture of working hard but also putting time aside to have fun in the work place and to raise money for charity" said a senior lawyer at Shoosmiths.
Although a less philanthropic colleague complained of receiving "multiple" fundraising request emails.
A trainee said hot-desking meant "you never sit next to anyone long enough to get to know them." But a senior colleague divulged that "some teams have a WhatsApp group to ensure they sit together by saving seats like German holidaymakers with towels on deckchairs."
Office and amenities
Hot desking was not popular with some. A female solicitor said she "used to have 10 pairs of shoes at work for various occasions and a picture of the kids on my desk. Now I have 2 pairs and no kids photos because I have to f***ing hot desk”.
The firm was praised for instituting "lots of refurbs", though it was an ongoing process, which meant "some offices are amazing and some are stuck in the 1980s".
Please note that the salary figures given in the table are for London.
Trainee pay is between £27,000 and £28,000 in the regions, and £25,000 and £26,000 in Edinburgh.
Placement students are paid £310 per week.
Regional NQ pay is £42,500 and in Edinburgh it's £40,000.