Is your firm run by a team of master strategists or a cack-handed band of David Brents? In the Firm of the Year 2016 survey, lawyers up and down the land spilled the beans to RollOnFriday.

Osborne Clarke takes the top spot with a superlative 92%. The senior management are "very approachable" and "seem to know everyone", says a junior associate. Like the other firms scoring well for management, a good mark is indicative of excellent ratings in other categories. At OC it is a reward for a healthy work/life balance and well-regarded career development. There is also, says a trainee, a "real buzz" about the place.

In second place, Clarke Willmott is run by "down-to-earth, nice people", not "a load of power-crazed egomaniacs", says a non-fee-earner. Several partners chime in to say that management is "very transparent about strategy and performance", while the chief exec is "very fair".

With 83%, Bird & Bird ties for third place with joint Firm of the Year Burges Salmon,  just above Mishcon (82%). Only one staffer has a criticism of the otherwise "sound" strategy at 2Birds, and that's the "endless references" to birds, where the canteen is the "Bird Table", lawyers are "Birds" the newsletter is "Bird Talk" and internal bulletins are "NestNews". Don't copy them, Squire Patton Boggs.

Staff at RPC point out that the firm offers management consultancy services, so it will come as a relief to the leadership that their own efforts have earned them an excellent 80%, equal with joint Firm of the Year Shearman & Sterling, and also Travers Smith. RPC is a "modern law firm moving with the times", says a junior associate. The Head of Brand has a "brain the size of a planet" says a senior associate, and has "woken the firm up to a whole load of things still alien to professional services firms". Another rejoices, "What other law firm has a Director of Future, Strategy & Animation?" Almost certainly none. One lawyer grumbles that he "does things like organise book clubs" and is "paid 6 figures for it".


At Dentons (74%), it is all about the mergers. Several staffers, "dislike the 'megafirm' approach favoured by management", saying that "Denton Wilde Sapte had a very good reputation in the City which is quickly being eroded by its global (at all costs) strategy". The firm is "now so huge, it's more a case of listing where we don't have offices than where we do". Others love it, arguing that while some "may dislike global domination", the "overall firm strategy is excellent". Plus the new business cards, "have our names in Chinese on the back".

A whole flurry of firms performed sufficiently well to land in the 70s. Profitable Macfarlanes (74%) is credited for "quietly and confidently smashing it out fo the park on a yearly basis" by a junior associate, while another says it has a "great" senior management team. Meanwhile at TLT (74%) "the Manchester office is on fire with a group of young dynamic partners driving it forward and inspiring everybody", claimed an unbiased partner, possibly based in the Manchester office.

In the mid-60s, Hogan Lovell's US merger, "seems, essentially, to have been a major success", says a senior associate. One problem: the "increasing Americanisation". Ghastly-sounding initiatives like 'Project Redefine' and 'Step Up' "feel a little forced in London". As for HR's gift of a "Mindfulness Colouring Book" in which 'colouring' is spelt 'coloring': "Outrageous".

    More suitable

Linklaters (65%) is similarly taken to task for "pointless internal management speak vanity projects", specifically 'The Jam'. Apparently the sharing session was "much-mocked" (who would do such a thing?). But it did result in the firm giving everyone the day off for their birthdays: a "genuine commitment to improving work-life balance", says an associate. Although another was disappointed that staff weren't all given sabbaticals.

CMS (65%) is criticised by more than one partner for decision-making "driven more by short-term profit than long-term sustainability". A junior associate cites the purchase "in 2014" of "what was (in 2007) Scotland's leading law firm". Another says the MP "literally has no idea what is going on", while the Senior Partner is apparently, "mainly waffling on about getting us to support the Lord Mayor in her ridiculous initiatives". A trainee adds that the print and mail staff have been "shoddily treated", because they've been "moved to the basement next to the car park and bins". It is not all bad, however, and the decision to move into a new office is applauded, even if it is "trying to be too hard to be an airport lounge".
Tip Off ROF