Burges Salmon leaps highest to claim the cup
Out of 61 qualifying firms, the Bristol-headquartered firm boasted the happiest staff in the UK, scoring 82% overall.
“We are thrilled to be crowned the RollOnFriday Best Law Firm to Work At 2022," Roger Bull, Burges Salmon's Managing Partner told RollOnFriday. "This award is like no other as it’s based on our people’s individual views of the firm, with well over half of the firm participating in the survey. Over the past two years, we have focused on building strength and resilience that comes from our culture of working together and supporting each other. It is this unique culture that has helped us meet the challenges we have all faced together."
"At Burges Salmon, we are proud to have a genuine courage to care – for our clients, our people and for the wider communities around us," added Bull. "We want our people to be proud of their firm and it’s therefore especially humbling to receive this award. What a fantastic start to 2022.”
The firm's culture was the firm's highest rated category, with an excellent score of 88%.
A lateral hire said: "I've been amazed at how important culture really is to the firm and the effort that goes into maintaining a positive and inclusive atmosphere. My team has group feedback sessions (attended from trainee to partner) simply on culture which then feeds into our team's business plan."
Another newbie to the firm said: "So this is where all the normal lawyers have been hiding? The culture is surely as good as it gets working for a major law firm. Friendly, welcoming and concerned about making sure everyone that works there is happy and actually gets to enjoy life."
One lawyer praised how "incredibly supportive" the firm had been, "both financially and psychologically" when two members of their immediate family developed chronic health problems.
"There is much less cynicism between the partnership and other fee earners than at my previous firm," said a junior lawyer. "I think that is because most of the partners are down to earth and seem to genuinely care about the people who work for them."
Burges Salmon's management was very highly regarded in the survey, scoring an impressive 86%. The response to the pandemic was applauded by staff. A senior lawyer said the firm "handled Covid very well" by providing "clear communication" and "good flexibility" to staff.
"The leadership team is completely approachable," said a senior lawyer. "The open door policy fully extends to the most senior partners at the firm. They actively seek out feedback from all levels of seniority and act on it."
"Great to see the dynamic duo of Roger Bull and Chris Seaton at the helm - putting people at the heart of what they do," said a business services staff member.
"Management all seem like human beings and treat you with respect," agreed a junior lawyer. "Senior partners will greet you in the cafeteria like an old friend."
Burges Salmon staff were generally very positive about career development, giving the firm a score of 79%.
"Discussions about career development are very open," said a lawyer. "When I recently put myself up for a more senior role, the partners in my team offered me a rehearsal of my presentation and every one of them took the time to give me individual feedback."
Another lawyer said the firm was "extremely supportive and attentive" and "the firm/partners really do back people coming through and listen to their preferences (even at the trainee and NQ levels)."
A junior lawyer said they were "entrusted with high levels of responsibility, matter management and client contact at an early stage" of their career. "There is also a real emphasis on training and CPD. The open door policy at the firm is genuine and popping in to discuss questions on matters is encouraged."
A trainee commended the firm for providing "lots of exposure and scope to shape the training contract as you would like."
Work/life balance at the firm scored 78%. While some lawyers noted that Burges Salmon was "getting busier and more demanding", the majority felt that their targets were not "anywhere near City or US firms" and so offered "a cushy deal" in comparison.
"I moved here after after 10 years at an MC firm, and I don't think most BS 'lifers' understand how good they've got it," said one senior lawyer. "My work is just as high a quality as I had in London, but I'm free to manage my own time and clients in a way that works with my non-work commitments. The need for an appropriate work/life balance is openly discussed and encouraged, and well-being is a key priority for the firm."
"As a senior lawyer, I work 4 days a week (to look after children on the 5th day) and I rarely have to work on my non-working day. I also rarely have to work late into the evening or at weekends," said another senior lawyer. "Working in a 'big' law firm has its demands and expectations but I think the 'deal' is generally a better one at Burges Salmon."
A number of staff praised the firm for its hybrid working. A junior lawyer said the firm had a "sensible approach" to remote working, which led to "a more trusting environment". The lawyer noted that the firm "hiring candidates outside of the traditional Bristol catchment suggests a long-term acceptance of hybrid working."
"I gain 2 hours a day at home without the awful commute and cancelled trains (which sometimes results in my being home at 7pm)", said another member of staff. "I now have time for exercising before work and spending that extra time with family."
"It is now seen that we are able to complete our tasks whilst WFH and do not have to physically be in the office," agreed a Business Services member of staff.
"The pandemic has actually improved my work/life balance," said a junior lawyer. "While there was an agile working policy in place long before Covid, it is much more commonplace to work from home, and my home set up is as good as the office thanks to investment by Burges Salmon in equipment for home working."
Pay was the lowest scoring category by staff at the firm, but was still given a decent rating of 77%. Trainees were generally pretty chuffed with their salary. "At the top of the market in Bristol, and beats some mid-tier London firms" said one trainee. "Very good for Bristol," another agreed.
"Appreciative of the recent rise in pay and it provides for a very comfortable life in Bristol," said one trainee, adding "I just try my best to not look at some of the NQ salaries in London in comparison."
There were some grumbles about pay from senior lawyers. "The pay is very good at an NQ/junior level following the recent pay review but this increase was not reflected at higher PQE levels where salaries are less competitive," said one. Another said that there was "too small a gap between junior and senior lawyer pay" which "does not reflect the role that each performs."
A junior lawyer noted that they could be earning more elsewhere, but concluded that "ultimately, we all choose to be here and it's a great firm. If the work/life vs. pay balance wasn't good enough, there wouldn't be the talent that there is at the firm."
A senior lawyer agreed: "It's a little galling that NQs at some shops in London are paid more than my 10 yrs PQE earns me here. But then I get to live in Bristol. And my commute is more of a glide down one of the more interesting high streets in the country."
While a number of Business Services staff agreed that the firm paid the "industry average", there were some murmurs of discontent. One Business Services staff member said that the salary "doesn't tend to move much, apart from with inflation." They added "I don't think anyone has a problem with partners earning a lot (it's their business after all, and people do generally recognise the personal sacrifices that they make in terms of time and stress), but I'm not sure how much awareness there is from the top about how huge the gap is in terms of lifestyle, financial worries etc and this makes conversations about resource and pay less palatable". Although the staff member noted the issue was "replicated in most firms" and concluded that "overall, this is a great place to work".
When asked what would make them leave the firm, it seemed the majority of Burges Salmon staff were struggling to find reasons. "I have everything I need/want here and look forward to coming to work on a Monday morning," said one senior lawyer. "I wouldn't go anywhere else." A succinct summary for RollOnFriday's Best Law Firm to Work at 2022.