Kirkland & Ellis (90%) landed top of the career development table.

As well as paying mega bucks, the US firm also held out the prospect of early partnership. And that earned it the highest score from staff this year. "You can make (non-equity) partner in six years", said an NQ. "In stark contrast", said a colleague, "to competitors where partnership is but a distant dream". With a clear career deal, said a partner in short trousers, Kirkland was the "best in the city for structure and clarity of process".

Next came Leeds-based Walker Morris (89%), and then Bristol's Clarke Willmott (86%). "I feel very positive" said a CW associate, "especially as a woman. Within my office, last year a female Solicitor was promoted to Associate a few months before going on maternity leave and this year a Solicitor has been promoted to Associate whilst on maternity leave". CW "don't recruit trainees in the usual way", said a trainee, "rather, 2 years' paralegal service buys you a training contract. If you are good at your job and they like you. If you're annoying and a bit of a prick they'll withhold a training contract till you give up and leave".

"Many" paralegals at Firm of the Year 2018 Osborne Clarke (82%) qualified via CILEX in the last year and "are now qualified solicitors, with the firm's backing", said one of them. You "Work hard you seemingly get rewarded", said a trainee, who divined there was "Not much of an old boys’ club" at the firm. Instead there was an "excellent framework" for career progression and "total transparency"  said junior solicitors. The "many tiers of role can feel redundant", said a senior solicitor, but "they are actually a good way of 'checking in' with where you are"

At joint Firm of the Year 2018 Burges Salmon (80%), "A lot of attention is paid to training and developing" and "this seems to be getting ever better". At co-victor Mills & Reeve (80%), a senior solicitor said the firm had "really encouraged my promotions despite several periods of maternity leave in the last few years". At Shearman & Sterling (79%), said junior solicitors, partnership prospects "are better now there are salaried partners". Presented in evidence: "We now have a partner who trained here".



To be made up to Associate from Solicitor at TLT (77%) "takes a lot of graft", said a lawyer there. "There is a nominations and interview process, alongside having to exceed expectations in all areas of a solicitor's role". It was "a lot of effort for only £2k more a year and much more responsibility". At Bird & Bird (77%) "you are looking at 10-12 years for partnership", said a junior solicitor, but "Legal Director is given out to keep you quiet at 7-8PQE".

The training programme between NQ and 3PQE "is exceptional" at Macfarlanes (75%), said a junior solicitor, although a senior solicitor said that "If you are female you have to act like a bloke to be supported", and "if you have a child then you might as well be an overnight cleaner". But another senior female solicitor said the firm "is really trying hard to listen to the needs of the fee earners".

At Travers Smith (75%), the corporate partners "recently sent everyone an email with a list of several senior associates who were in the running for a shot at partnership" but "made it clear that there was not enough space for everyone on the list to make the grade". It "made reference to certain activities" they would be made to undertake to "whittle the list down even further. The whole process is now being referred to as The Hunger Games". Others said the partners "seem keen for people to stick around for the long term", and said that "It's definitely getting a bit more transparent". And, said a junior solicitor, "Gone (I think) are the days where one suspected that the partners just read tea leaves and used a ouija board to decide who got promoted next". 

  "Ugh, Darren's USELESS, but I guess the dead have spoken."  

At Mayer Brown (75%), "Despite the puffery of the brochures your chance of international secondment as a trainee is comparable to the mining of blood diamonds", said a trainee, " - rare to find, difficult to obtain and largely considered to be unacceptable". But that was a rare quibble in a sea of good scores.

Slaughter and May (73%) offered "excellent training", said a trainee, and "there is a feeling that trainees will be hired after qualification". You "can't avoid high quality work", said a junior solicitor, but "don't expect anyone to sit down with you and provide genuine, thoughtful insight into your future career. There are, of course, some advantages to being treated like an adult". A lawyer with intentions to depart said SandM "has proven an excellent passerelle to get seen at other firms". At Weil (73%) "the deals are big and complex", but "the top heavy team structure means that you can expect to be a diligence monkey until 2 PQE". Training, said one wag, "is patchy but the on-the-job learning is fantastic as the partners provide minimal input and you are left to figure everything out for yourself". 

"All the senior associates have left" at Gowling WLG (73%), said a merry junior solicitor, so there was "a clear path to partnership if you can wait 12 years". Meanwhile at BLP (73%), "It might be a bit naive", said a junior lawyer, "but generally the people who work hard seem to be rewarded rather than those who play politics". However, retention "isn't great" said a trainee,  so "it's difficult to see yourself as an associate at times".

At Latham & Watkins (72%), despite the high score, there are "Zero chances of partnership unless you are male, male or male", said a female. A female Dentons (71%) lawyer was hopeful, stating that the firm had "committed to having 30% of partners being women by 2020". 

At Norton Rose Fulbright (70%) there was, said a senior solicitor, "generally a good focus on career development", although "if you get stuck in a rut of working for one partner", you can "often be monopolised by that individual and effectively 'barred' from working for other partners". A problem when working for a range of partners "is a prerequisite for progression".
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