How it looked.

Bird & Bird gave victorious Burges Salmon a proper run for its money this year, with staff handing it superb scores in RollOnFriday’s Best Law Firms to Work At 2024.

The survey saw more than 8,000 people working in UK private practice rate their satisfaction with their pay, work/life balance, career development, management, and the culture at their firm.

2Birds landed with a mighty chirrup in second place, and as the top-performing City firm.

Pay “is not the highest in the market”, however for plenty “work life balance and firm culture make up for it”. “It's a trade-off I'm willing to make to work sane(ish) hours for normal people”, said a junior solicitor.

2Birds would have topped the table but for a significantly lower mark in the pay satisfaction category than the rest, which it stormed. “I trained at a top-3 international firm. The services are more efficient here, hierarchy is clearer, working conditions are impeccable and the quality of work is world-class”, said a junior solicitor.

On leadership, the consensus is that “Communication has improved with new management team”, and there was a sense that the firm “seems to be heading in a positive direction”.

There’s an “’If you're good enough you're old enough’ attitude throughout the firm”, said a 2Birds solicitor addressing career progression, a sentiment echoed by colleagues: “Good people get recognition”. And as for the office, “We've got the best fucking amenities in London. Have you been to our upstairs coffee bar and restaurant? Next question, baby please”.

Hours are “generally 9:30am-7pm” which one solicitor said they “can't really complain about in this industry”, albeit with the caveat that it varies by department, while the culture is helped by the fat that “99.9999999% of people very nice and generally ‘normal’". 2Birds has expanded internationally a great deal, and importantly, “the connectedness across the international network is second to none”, said one lawyer.

Phil Sherrell, partner and Head of Bird & Bird’s London office, told ROF, “We’ve worked hard for a long time on creating a firm with a great culture and that people enjoy working for. We have lots of colleagues who have been with us for 30+ years and it’s no secret why. Whether it’s because of the cutting-edge work, the friendly colleagues or the (free) coffee, this really is a great place to work and I’m proud that has been recognised”.

Mills & Reeve took bronze with a superlative set of reviews from its people. The firm won outright in 2020 and placed highly in the interim. Maintaining such levels of satisfaction throughout the pandemic, and out the other side, indicates that it's been run very well indeed.

“The firm has done well to keep up with the sharp rise in regional salaries”, said one of its senior solicitor. “Yes, you could earn more at other firms, and flog yourself to death, and those sociopaths are better off going to those firms!”

“I could get more pay for not dissimilar total hours elsewhere (and did until relatively recently) - but the real difference is that I have much more control over when I do the hours. My work can flex more at M&R, and there aren't that many last minute scrambles for evening calls (and barely any necessary weekend work)”, said a colleague.

Many agreed the management is “excellent”.  As with Burges Salmon, staff said it is “open and transparent” and the top level “genuinely take on board the opinions of their employees”.

M&R is spread across the country, but most locations got a thumbs up. The Cambridge office “is great”, they’re leaving the tired Birmingham site this year, and the new Manchester one “is lovely and in a great area for food. The only downside is that it doesn't get much daylight. But that might just be Manchester”.

All tends to follow culture, and “It's still our strength”, even if ”it's hard to distil exactly what it is. Just being decent, normal, hard-working people I guess”, said a senior solicitor. In fact, “The only issue is that everyone is sometimes too polite”.

Claire Clarke, Mills & Reeve managing partner, said, “Fantastic news! It’s great to be recognised yet again as one of RollonFriday’s Best Firms to Work At and the result reflects our great culture and that people really enjoy working here".

"We’ve been in the top eight firms consistently since 2016 and won Firm of the Year three years running from 2018-2020. Being ranked 3rd this time around is a real achievement, however, we’re a competitive lot so have our sights set on reclaiming the top spot again next year!”

Well done to both. Find the full results here.


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Options 26 January 24 14:03

Both get consistently good marks. M&R intriguing. A quality regional firm is a needle in the haystack.  

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