Slater and Gordon was - and a large part still is - an Australian law firm, founded in Melbourne. In 2012 it came to the UK and became just about the largest personal injury specialist in the country when it snapped up a number of firms in an acquisition spree, including Russell Jones and Walker, Fentons, Goodmans Law and Pannone.
But in 2015, it paid £637m to acquire the professional services division of Quindell, which turned out to be a bit of a disaster. Quindell was subsequently sued by Slaters who accused it of flogging the PI giant a white elephant. In 2017 the firm split, cleaving off the UK business. Office closures and redundancies have followed.
It's fair to say Slater and Gordon (UK) has not had an easy ride in the RollOnFriday satisfaction surveys, which each year measures staff satisfaction with their firm. In 2020 it came bottom of the table, winning the title of Golden Turd. A large proportion of respondents from the firm said they were dissatisfied, resulting in a mark of just 28%. Its people were somewhat happier by the time of the RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2022, in which the firm placed 58th of 61 firms. Here's some of what they have to say:
"The bonus scheme is a massive stitch up" said a senior lawyer, "goalposts change just when you think you might be in for a bonus."
Another lawyer said, "I was told before joining that my financial target would be four times my salary. Years later it still is not. The bonus system makes no sense. Unless Santa brings me one, I don't know what bonus I'll get or when." She added "the gender pay gap information just about sums it up - the male paralegal who reports to me got a bigger bonus than me last time, how is that possible?"
Some staff complained that the firm was still "run out of Liverpool by the Quindell mafia". Plenty more were vicious about management. One solicitor said the top bods "just compete with each other to improve their PR profile for the next gig they get after this mess finally ends".
A member of business services branded the leadership “Useless and toxic”, while another said, "Having worked in London for 20 years this is by far the worst managed company I've been employed by”.
Other verdicts included, “A complete shambles”, “farce”, “total bell ends” and, appropriately, a “car crash” and an “Accident waiting to happen”.
While offices were being smartened up to mixed reviews - which may be irrelevant now that the firm has said it intends to shift to permanent home working - many were more preoccupied with their job security. "As I'm over 5PQE I expect I will be made redundant soon as the firm makes more cuts", said one lawyer.
The work life balance "is fairly adequate", said a trainee, and it was a view echoed by several staff. "S & G are very supportive of having a work life balance and expect nobody to be in the office longer than 7 hours a day", said a junior solicitor.
Others disagreed. "Working until 10 pm every night to make a hedge fund manager in Manhattan slightly richer is not where i see myself in 1 years time let alone 5 years time" said a fed up partner at the personal injury firm. A trainee said "the option to benefit from flexible/home working is majorly dependent on the decade your manager was born in".
A senior lawyer said work/life balance was "rubbish - I'm currently working 12 /13/14 hour days, the firm doesn't even have a policy where I can order a taxi home afterwards if I need one." Although another junior lawyer who was less busy said she didn't "go the extra mile, as the incentive is zero".
But for many, work-life balance wasn't sufficient to offset other issues, such as training which was "fucking shit" according to one junior solicitor. Training "is almost zero", agreed a partner.
"Training used to be good", said a senior solicitor, "however it is now limited as the training team has mainly been made redundant". That would present a problem.
"Micro-managed and death by tick box management. all the decent people left in 2017", said a colleague. "No one good left here to learn from", said another solicitor. "It is nearly the end of our financial year and the process for promotion still has not been seen", complained a lawyer at the Golden Turd. "What other firms operate in this way? None, surely".
Office and amenities
Slater and Gordon's Manchester office "is now like a massive call centre but with less room". Wooden floors were "madness" as evidenced by "the endless line of women in their high heels stomping past my desk - try concentrating on work with that clomping going on all day. How about a carpet?" The new London office "looks nice but it's too loud. It was designed by an idiot", said a senior solicitor.
"Only decent place to escape was the toilets which play music in the individual cubicles, probably why staff spend hours in them", they added. Others defended the premises as "cheap and cheery", and said Manchester was "nice - more room now that even more people have gone".
As for the culture, "It is a car crash to be honest", said an employee.
"Is there a culture?" asked a lawyer. "In the same way that a North Korean gulag has a culture then, yes, we do have a culture. A culture born out of trauma bonding".
"No culture, no values and no morals" said a lawyer. Another chimed in "it's a culture of hate and pity".
"Culture as in bacteria that grows and festers?" said a colleague, "Yes, that's life at Slater and Gordon."
"There's a leaving do almost every week," said a senior lawyer at the firm. "Friend after friend has left. It's heartbreaking. I can't see how things will improve until the working conditions improve." Another respondent said "No sense of a future. No sense of professionalism. Just churn work."
So why do people stay? "I couldn't tell you even at gunpoint", said a senior solicitor at the firm. "Probably it's down to my own lack of imagination. I don't know why I'm still there: Stockholm syndrome?" A partner at the Golden Turd responded, "The market is shrinking and I'm struggling to find another job".