Trowers & Hamlins
Trowers & Hamlins was traditionally a rather genteel, laces and braces outfit with a reputation for real estate, housing and public sector work. Its relatively small private client department seemed to be funded almost entirely by a handful of wealthy Middle Eastern sheiks, and it leveraged on this to make a big effort to get more out of the region and up its corporate game.
Corporate and Real Estate (which still includes lots of housing and public sector - not very sexy but a big niche for the firm) form the lion’s share of T&H’s work. Property takes up over a third of global revenue and the firm's four UK offices (Manchester, Birmingham, London and Exeter) are all top rated for social housing.
As far as the corporate practice is concerned, the Middle East is where it’s at. The firm has offices in Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Bahrain. The firm does a huge amount of transport work in the Middle East and has a great deal of experience in Islamic finance. The firm’s private client team may still be small, but it’s also still successful in feeding the corporate dept. Elsewhere, the firm also has an office in Malaysia.
In the past Trowers had fared badly in the Firm of the Year survey for years, routinely languishing near the bottom. In 2015 it came bottom as lawyers said "morale is pretty bad", with a partner adding that they presumed the windows don't open "to stop one ending it all". Another claims that "capricious decisions are commonplace as those unable to find work elsewhere seek to cement their position by knifing the more capable in the back". Oof.
It fared much better in subsequent surveys, albeit with a noticeable influx of partners, most of whom painted a rosy picture. Others were positive, too, though, with one associate arguing that, "the bad press which this firm has had - including the Golden Turd - is I think completely undeserved". One other upside: the firm recently moved to "excellent" swanky new offices on Bunhill Row, where apparently the only downside is that the "view from the meeting rooms is somewhat spoilt by Slaughter and May". Although a partner at Trowers & Hamlins took some joy in witnessing shafted lawyers at the Magic Circle firm: "I walk past those poor sods in Slaughter and May who are still slaving away and eating in their soulless canteen (with the jukebox that never gets played) and a grim weekend of proofreading derivatives documentation in front of them". Perhaps with a cackle, she added, "I thank God that I work for Trowers! "
On pay, one lawyer said "I would definitely like more, but I don't want to be the dad from every cheesy Christmas film that never turns up to his kid's school productions." A colleague said "regional pay is more a less on a par with other regional based firms" but added "when you have a lot of work and are expected to work long hours, the disparity with London seems unfair."
The firm's culture was described by one lawyer as "relaxed and inclusive" which went "a long way to make up for some of the downsides e.g. slightly below market pay." Another member of staff said the firm had "good values" but messaging could be "a bit overpowering" as she felt she was "bombarded" with emails about LGBT matters.
A mixed view, then with some vouching for a, "genuine open door policy -no-one is unapproachable" and others claiming, "Politics are worse than the Russian Imperial Court".
The firm's focus may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if the work does float your boat then T&H may be worth serious consideration.
NB stated salaries are for London. In the regions, first year trainees receive £28,000, second years £30,000, and NQs £41,000.