For the first time, the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey asked respondents to rate how satisfied they were with the office, where they spend most of their lives.
Bird & Bird's digs came top, earning 90%. "Loos are just incredible", raved a trainee, "I would commute from home each morning to use the loos". The free barista service (also does hot chocolate) was popular too, and there were shout-outs for the "acai bowl station" and "eggs benny for breakfast so you can be as basic as you want".
Just after Bird & Bird and Mills & Reeve (joint first with 90%) came Burges Salmon (88%), where the meeting room snacks "continue to thrill and amaze". The introduction of gluten free shortbread "was arguably the best moment of my 2019" said one solicitor. Across the entire office category, open plan was the big issue. A BS partner begged, "The cellular offices are great - please don't move to open-plan. My life would be miserable if you did".
"The client lounge is fancy AF", boasted a solicitor at Mishcon de Reya (87%), and the canteen was "much better" since its refurb, "despite it's small mouse-related hiccup last year". The only real criticism was that "the men in Weston House need to eat more fiber, or see a doctor. Seriously".
Mishcon's banisters are begging for a slide race. Surely these occur. A mighty duel for that single partnership slot.
Bog issues were in the mind of one perplexed DAC Beachcroft (84%). "I cannot understand the moans about toilets both in the firm and on ROF", he said. "If people want to have a curry and six pints of Guinness before dropping their guts the next morning they should learn to use a bog brush". In the regional DAC offices, “it's easy to feel like the least favourite child", said a lawyer jealous of its flash London site. The “place is filled with their cast-off chairs and tables", and "we've had new slips of coloured carpet inset in all the main walkways which are so badly laid they're a trip-hazard-law-suit waiting to happen".
Ashurst (83%) scored its highest mark in the survey for its extremely swanky new home at the Fruit & Wool Exchange. Staff said it was, "vastly better " than Appold Street, the firm's home for over 30 years, and "finally the IT more or less works". It was "absolutely amazing, feels like I am in Google". Except for the "terrible, terrible plumbing - all toilets permanently blocked". A mere snagging issue.
Fruit & wool exchange imminent.
"I heart the Gherkin", said a Kirkland & Ellis (82%) partner, "Don’t know why they are looking to move". The Gherkin "is like a glass castle", said junior solicitors, one of whom admitted "I should not have anywhere near this amount of real estate as my office". The men’s loos were the one cloud on the horizon here, too, afflicted with a "rotting stench post 10 am when presumably some big hitting PE partner has taken his MASSIVE morning shit", mused a solicitor. "I fear my olfactory system may never recover".
Weil (82%) was "Like working in a hotel - if anyone complains in this section they need to remove the silver spoon from their backside (and should leave)", said a business services employee. He was male though, and women said there "should be more female loos" with "better air fresheners and low level music".
Clifford Chance (81%) had "Probably the best office in London. Anyone who complains that Canary Wharf is crap compared to the City clearly hasn't spent much time here", said a junior solicitor. "There's a pool. In the office. Say no more", said a colleague.
At Osborne Clarke (81%), the Bristol office "needs a facelift but everyone knows that and it's being sorted", said staff, while hot desking "hasn't been as terrible as everyone feared. It also means you don't get stuck next to anyone you don't like".
Agile working had its critics at Shoosmiths (81%), where a female solicitor, "used to have 10 pairs of shoes at work for various occasions and a picture of the kids on my desk. Now I have 2 pairs and no kids photos because I have to fucking hot desk”. Otherwise, the firm was praised for instituting "lots of refurbs", which, as an ongoing process, meant "some offices are amazing and some are stuck in the 1980s".
The new open plan at DLA Piper (80%) "wasn't the disaster many of us expected". People "are largely respectful save for one team which continues to use public spaces on an open plan floor for loud (and unnecessary) Thursday afternoon gatherings". And even then, "at least they all seem to like each other". New offices "are being rolled out all across the UK", said staff, and London even had a hydroponic kitchen garden. Although on the loo front, "At least one colleague seems to believe that an alternative to flushing is to simply stack a large amount of toilet paper on top of their tod". There's always one.
At Addleshaw Goddard (79%), "If you want 'wow' go down south!!" Or northern England, where there were "first rate" offices in Manchester. Just watch out for Scotland, where the AG premises "are awful, ceiling tiles fall in, leaks appear in the ceiling when it's raining heavily. No canteen or cafe. Is genuinely embarrassing when compared to English counterparts".
CC's secret weapon.
Macfarlanes' (78%) office was "a huge upgrade to the facilities we had pre-2017", said its lawyers, who summed it up as "all pleasant, but definitely not flashy. It's consistent with the firm's vibe: nice but not very showy". There were plaudits for free sanitary products in the female toilets, good coffee and the "very bright elevator lights. Did not realise I had acne until I got on a Macfarlanes elevator". The 'Wellness suite' in the basement was "the only letdown” courtesy of "the sign on the door warning of risk of death from electrocution" in the neighbouring plant room.
Hogan Lovells (77%) "did a reasonable job" with the Atlantic House refurbishment, conceded staff, "apart from the single floor of open-plan - those poor souls". One of those unfortunates, a partner, said they were "unhappy about open plan, but the management know my views. Some people pretend to like open plan, but privately say they hate it". Aside from that, said staff, "You could never leave Atlantic House for a week and you'd be well provided for - sleeping pods, gym, canteen, table tennis, back entrance to Vivat Bacchus. What more could a man wish for?"
Clarke Willmott's (76%) toilets were often blocked, said a partner, because there were "too many people in the office". Capacity issues meant there was also "no place to sit to eat for lunch" and the noise was "almost as loud as Euston railway station". A colleague agreed the volume was “so ridiculously loud I have to wear head phones to work". In Bristol, the"decision to install "a giant client 'wall of fame'" showing off their logos created an issue, said an employee, due to lack of permission and because "within a fortnight of the wall's inauguration, two of the leading clients had left". The wall "was quickly deconstructed".