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. And its making good progress in Manchester, London and its other offices too.
TLT firm covers the sectors: real estate, financial services, public sector, clean energy, digital, retail and leisure/food/drink. And it covers most of the usual services that you would expect from a large firm such as corporate, dispute resolution, investigations, banking and finance, IP etc. Traditionally TLT 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, Byron Burgers, the BBC, Greene King - 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 135) 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 has scored well in the recent annual RollOnFriday satisfaction surveys. 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".
A junior solicitor said there was "recognition for hard work", and "really challenging and interesting work with top clients". A colleague said there was "lots of responsibility" available, while partners were "approachable". While another junior commented, "lovely people - even in the litigation teams, the number of bastards is exceptionally low".
A senior solicitor 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". One content lawyer said that the firm "pays very well for Bristol, without having to do the crazy hours of other firms here i.e. Burges Salmon or Simmons & Simmons."
Others 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".
As for the office, TLT made good on that promise. Its London office used to be "grotty with 15 year old desks, stained floors and a crappy kitchen". But "We complained and the firm listened", said staff. Post-refurb, "TLT Towers is so much better". Now, "We get free coffee - none of that Kenco Coffee bs though. Nescafe gold". The new vending machine's contactless card feature "is a lunchtime game-changer", said a partner.
Regarding management, one solicitor moonlighting as a pundit said, “Its disruptor strategy is bearing fruit and competitors are quite rightly spooked”. Management “is too nice”, countered a steely partner: “some partners get away with murder (not literally)”.
TLT has the ability and desire to expand - former managing partner David Pester, now head of strategic growth, has stated his aim of taking the firm into the top 50 - and that moment is getting closer. So one to watch.
"For the work/life balance offered, its pretty good", said a junior solicitor. "While the pay has improved drastically, it does not compete to the same level as our rivals and the changing nature of the Bristol legal market", said another. A senior solicitor said the firm kept up, actually, and a "much needed salary review" means pay "now seems to be in line with comparable firms". The pay "is slightly lower than other similar firms but the working environment more than makes up for it", said a colleague.
"It's fantastic", agreed senior lawyers."Andrew Wood took over as Managing Partner just before the first lockdown. Despite taking on the role at a difficult time, he quickly stepped up and made difficult decisions in respect of furlough and redundancies. As a result, the firm has had its most profitable year (ever). He has also implemented changes around flexible working and parental leave which have been long standing gripes in the past". "Management is very good in some teams but it is dependant on the Partners", said a junior solicitor.
Trainees said there were "Plenty of opportunities - very high retention rate too", and that there was "Far better involvement in cases and running my own matters than I've heard from some of my MC contacts". More senior solicitors said that "Getting promoted from Solicitor to Associate is a challenging process", and that, "Once you get to associate level at TLT the structure is relatively flat - this is fine for 3/4 PQE however when you become more senior it is relatively difficult to see how to progress".
"It varies. Fortunately, the good days out number the bad. I can collect my son from nursery most days without having to log back on later in the evening", said a senior solicitor.
"I have a fantastic work/life balance at TLT", said another, describing how "You are expected to work hard but there is flexibility in how you balance that against your personal commitments. Partners are very understanding of those commitments outside of work and trust you to work flexibly across your working week".
"I moved from a firm with 100% work and 0 life and took a large pay cut in the process. The amount of work I have and quality of the deals has not changed but somehow the firm manages to balance this with an incredibly positive outlook in terms of work/life balance", said another senior solicitor. "In my previous firm I was working late nights and weekend as standard whereas at TLT this is the exception rather than the rule. My quality of life has vastly improved since moving to TLT".
"Some days it's 9-5, others it's 8-7, but there is definitely a consciousness in the firm of people having a good work life balance. You're not expected to work until midnight for the sake of it!" said a junior solicitor. "Since qualifying, my work/life balance has drastically improved. Tend to work 830/9-530/6 most days with irregular later nights but no later than 8. Regularly encouraged to log off at 5 by colleagues", explained another junior colleague. "I generally finish at 6/7pm and working weekends is pretty much unheard of", said a trainee.
"Supportive and progressive policies make me feel valued and that this is somewhere that will be good to work in the long term", was a sentiment shared by several lawyers, though not everyone: "Unfortunately, the recent 'wokeness' and 'offended by everything' culture has stifled most of the banter", said a senior solicitor. "Almost everyone is nice", said another lawyer, and many agreed.
NB Stated trainee and NQ salaries are for London. First year trainees are paid £33k (Bristol), £28,500 (Manchester) and £22,000 (Glasgow). Second year trainees are paid £35k (Bristol), £30,500 (Manchester) and £25k (Glasgow). NQs are paid £48,500 (Bristol), £42,500 (Manchester) and £35k (Glasgow).