TLT was formed by a merger between Trumps and Lawrence Tuckets in 2000, and acquired a London office in April 2005 when it merged with boutique firm Lawrence Jones. It has added an office in Manchester, and opened another in Belfast in 2012. The same year it swallowed up Scottish firm Anderson Fyfe, gaining it offices in Edinburgh and Glasgow.
It may not be as profitable as Burges Salmon and Osborne Clarke, but it looks like it's delivering on its ambition to be the number three firm in Bristol - a desire which appeared pretty fanciful only a few years ago.
The firm has five practice areas: real estate, commercial services, employment, banking and lender services and private business. Traditionally it capitalised on the fact that other regional firms didn't tend to have much of a regional focus, and it has picked up good work from smaller, regional based companies such as Avon Rubber Group and Aardman Animations. Cracking. Now that it's made more of a name for itself the proportion of finance and corporate work it does for bigger ticket clients - Barclays, WH Smith, Orange, EDF Energy, The Metropolitan Police, Nationwide and The Co-operative Group - is increasing, and there's a commensurate rise in its profits.
Assistants say that your experience at the firm will depend on the sort of deals on which you're working. On the upside, if you work for more local clients you'll be allowed off the leash, given early responsibility and lots of client contact and put in reasonable hours. On the downside, you can find yourself working hard on the more minor aspects of a deal for Barclays whilst lawyers at City firms bag the more interesting stuff.
But with that in mind, the firm does more than most to try and ensure that staff have a decent work/life balance. Many of its lawyers work flexible hours or share jobs, and it's clearly a chummy place to work - partners (of whom there are approximately 130) were described by one Roffer as "some of the nicest people I've met". Praise indeed.
The firm also makes a big play of how everyone has a part to play in its growth, and it really does seem to be a more egalitarian environment than most law firms. Everyone is asked to become involved in business development activities, the offices are open plan, everyone dresses down and the requirements for making partner are sufficiently transparent to be published on the firm's intranet (although that doesn't mean that chances of promotion are any better here than anywhere else).
TLT scored well in RollOnFriday's Firm of the Year 2018 survey with dozens of TLT lawyers submitting their ratings and comments. So what did they say?
Trainees (in fact, lawyers at all levels) praised the "open, collegiate atmosphere". Trainees in Bristol said there was a "good amount of client contact". There was "great responsibility", said one, who was "managing a lot of my own files in my first seat", with "support always there if needed". Trainees working in London said that there was less client contact there. The trainee salary was "competitive" for Bristol. The people, said another trainee, were "actually nice. Not just work nice. Real life nice", while another said TLT was "not stuffy at all".
Junior solicitors (for RollOnFriday's purposes, this means NQ-3PQE) said there was "recognition for hard work", and "really challenging and interesting work with top clients". Juniors said there was "lots of responsibility" available, while partners were "approachable". A junior commented, "lovely people - even in the litigation teams, the number of bastards is exceptionally low".
A senior solicitor (4PQE+) said "the pay isn't great but the work/life balance is pretty good, so it (almost!) evens itself out". Another said it was "good money for the hours expected (as a general rule)". Others also praised the work/life balance. "Whilst many larger firms pay lip service to having a good work/life balance", said a senior solicitor, "TLT employees are permitted to have lives beyond the office. Most people are out of the office by 6:30pm during the week (even managers) and very few people regularly work at the weekends".
Other agreed, one praising "not having to work ridiculous hours in order to get recognition". They also said there was "good supervision and supportive management", and a "top notch spread of banking clients to work for, and good spread of work too".
"Nice people", said a senior solicitor: "I haven't come across a bastard yet!" Too nice for one, who said there was "a little too much focus on the 'TLT way' (all cuddly and nice)". The hard-nosed curmudgeon was the exception. Another praised the "supportive" team in which they worked, and said there were "very approachable supervisors who are genuinely interested in your career progression". There "truly is a level structure at the firm", said another, "in that all offices are open plan and the managers sit amongst everyone else".
A couple of lawyers complained that there was no canteen or subsidised eatery. However, the Bristol office came in for serious stick for building works. It was undergoing a refurbishment at the time of the 2017 survey, and plenty of associates were on the same page as the one who said, "whilst I'm sure it'll be lovely when it's finished, persistent drilling, disgusting toilets and massive queues for the two remaining operating lifts do not make for a pleasant working environment".
However, they agreed with the lawyer who said, "the offices should be very swanky indeed once the work's complete, including a new penthouse suite of meeting rooms".
TLT has the ability and desire to expand - managing partner David Pester has stated his aim of taking the firm into the top 50 - and that moment is getting closer. So one to watch.
NB Stated trainee and NQ salaies are for London. In the regions, first year trainees may be paid £27k, second years £29k. and NQs £39.5k. Also, from NQ onwards, salaries stated are an average of the band available at each PQE level.