"It's been a quiet year and everything's fine."
Thousands of people working in private practice in the UK contributed comments as they rated their firms in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Survey 2021.
We've sifted through the pearls and are delighted to garland a few firms whose staff offered up particularly eye-catching observations. This year, many respondents reflected on the effect of Covid on law firm life.
Fallen Scales Prize - Slaughter and May
"Lockdown has allowed us to peek behind the curtain into partners' lives. It really brings home the message that most are sad, 50-something year olds who have to work in their spare bedrooms like the rest of us."
Chris Whitty Award - Debevoise & Plimpton
"One partner moved seamlessly from denouncing corona as a hoax that wouldn't stop him working in the office to declaring he'd never come into the City again on account of his (previously unknown) asthma."
Dominic Cummings Award - Shoosmiths
"There is a NQ in Birmingham who is known in the office as 'Breaks' because they constantly post themselves breaking every covid law possible on Instagram."
Rishi Sunak Award for Grit - DLA Piper
"Too many people using covid as excuse to stay at home. It's not the f***ing plague, get a grip you lazy gits."
Polyamorous Verruca Award - Keystone Law
"Anyone who thinks the dispersed model means we are not collegiate has never seen 14 people in an 8 person hot-tub on the firm's ski trip."
Best Facilities - [redacted]
"The office is the Managing Director's house and staff were banned from using the kitchen before lockdown due to fears of covid. We called for water and crockery when needed. She bought a portable toilet (with no sink) for staff so we wouldn't use the toilets in her house and possibly infect her and her husband. The portable toilet was kept in the meeting room where the curtains are always open, but she purchased a screen to allow us some dignity so passing cars could not see us."
Begged Question Award - Irwin Mitchell
"The shame of my toddler bursting in on a Partners Teams call and calling one of my colleagues 'Daddy'. I may never live that one down."
Best Comms Brainwave - Shakespeare Martineau
"The 'Through the Keyhole' videos of partners' homes during lockdown was poorly judged. When many of us were living in small spaces without gardens and working from the kitchen table, a video tour of some partner's private office, 5 bed house and half acre garden weren't exactly the morale boost I was after."
Hardest Burn - Simpson Thacher & Bartlett
"Any firm which hires a lateral partner with no book and who is famous for making trainees cry and making associates change career has to give no shits about anyone. Unrelated to the above, [redacted] was recently hired as a [redacted] partner."
Best Dressed - Vardags (who else?)
"After coming into the office in a suit which was very very very very dark blue instead of a more presidential black, they stripped me naked and locked me up in the basement. This was not until they had ceremonially burned my garments and paraded me starkers around the office as everyone was forced to point and chant 'Shame'."
Ticking Timebomb Award - Freshfields
"I work for the lovechild of Dracula and Macbeth. A year into 'Being Freshfields', she is still there bullying away and crowing about how the dirt she's got on the firm is worth a million if they ever tried to get rid of her."
Most Keen to End WFH - Willkie Farr
"MP clearly feels v uncomfortable with the people working from home. Look, if you've overextended yourself by leasing 3 (even pre-COVID) half empty floors that's your bad."
Best Life Choices Joint Winner - Clyde & Co
"I had a very average trainee leave on qualification to go to a US firm, and immediately earn almost 100k more than me. As if that isn't enough to make me question what I do all day, I'm now too specialised to be of any interest to a US firm, which is even more dispiriting."
Best Life Choices Joint Winner - Squire Patton Boggs
"I do absolute f-all, have a jack at least 4 times a day (as anything less is rookie numbers) and I still bag £82k a year no sweat. Plus I've now been making phat money from day-trading Bitcoin so it's all good."
Stay Safe Prize - Charles Russell Speechlys
"The facilities manager roams the office with a 2m long stick to establish whether you can lawfully be in at the same time as the person sat behind you."
Best Trick - [redacted]
"Magicians - senior partner manages to bill 15+ hours a day...from a sun lounger...in Kavos...with just an iPhone."
Fastest Runners - Irwin Mitchell
"The firm gets a bad rap for being an 'Ambulance Chaser' when in reality the care and dedication shown by the fee earners is exceptional. Consider yourself lucky if we chased your ambulance."
Nursery Award for Water Play - HFW
"The quality of work in Shipping is often awesome high profile stuff, with ships doing crazy things (colliding, grounding, exploding, getting blown up by militants, being hijacked by pirates)."
Life and Soul of the Party Award - Squire Patton Boggs
"Constant bombardment about Charity stuff. I honestly couldn't care less about a f*****g pumpkin carving contest."
Most Cost Conscious - Blake Morgan
"The firm refused to pay for Zoom and required staff to organise 40min meetings only or to keep dialling in, which looked really professional."
The EU Bursary Award - BLM
"I'd have more luck developing my own Covid-19 Vaccine and getting it approved than getting a pay rise."
Best Life Lesson - Pinsent Masons
"If a partner has to literally shout in your face 'I am nice!!!!!!!!' they probably aren't."
Best Boss - [redacted]
"The [redacted] is a bully that makes poor saps stand in front of all other partners at the partners' conference and recount how they stupidly underbilled a client whilst the [redacted] sits gurning. It was one of the most toe curling things I've ever seen."
The Richard Curtis You Had Me At Hello Prize - Burges Salmon
"Rather than being put up in a hotel for the week, people of all levels within the business who have a spare room in their home are encouraged to offer it out to the Vac Schemers. I took up the offer of staying with one of the Associates, her husband and their dog for the week. She let me know I could stay with them a few days before the Vac Scheme started so I could get settled and stay a few days after if I wanted to experience Bristol a bit more as I had never really been. In the build up to that week, she sent me pics of the dog saying how excited they all were to welcome me. On my train down, she gave me a call excitedly saying "We're in Tesco, what d'ya fancy for tea tonight - spag bol or cottage pie?" I turned up to their house and was immediately greeted with hugs, an adorable puppy running around my feet, the smell of cottage pie wafting to my nose and a screening of Love Actually as I shamefully hadn't seen it before. I didn't even know this person but she treated me like family from the get go. Every day of that week I would walk into the office with her. We'd leave the house, she'd lock the door and then immediately she'd start walking with a spring in her step. She couldn't wait to get into the office. 8 years into the job and she was just as excited as the first day. Smiling, laughing and sharing the most amazing stories the whole way. I knew there and then on that first Monday morning walk before the Vac Scheme had even started that I didn't need to look at another firm again - I was sold."
Most Fragrant - Debevoise & Plimpton
"One senior lawyer regularly farts loudly during meetings. We could even hear the farts on Zoom calls."
Thanks to all who took part.