Seven firms scored 80% or more in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2018 survey, and are therefore Excellent. No firm is perfect, but these came fairly close according to hundreds of their staff.

1st - Osborne Clarke, Burges Salmon, Mills & Reeve (83%)

They shared first place and were crowned joint Firm of the Year 2018. Read more about why they clinched the title here.

4th - Clarke Wlilmott (82%)

A regional firm took the next spot, too. Unlike a lot of firms, said a non-fee-earner, Bristol-based Clarke Willmott "seem to value non fee-earners and really want you to do well". A partner said the firm was "undoubtedly friendly", and "typically adopts a caring approach" when staff were sick. A junior solicitor said she felt "positive" about career development as a woman at the firm. "Within my office", she said, "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". And while working hard "is encouraged", regularly working "ridiculous" hours "is considered a problem".

5th - Walker Morris, Bird & Bird (81%)

There have been "massive improvements over the last three years" at the Leeds-based firm, said a junior solicitor. A senior solicitor said there were "some really good forward-thinking people here". But "also a lot of backward old codgers" who "really need to walk away and take a long overdue P&O cruise". Imbued with a "deep ingrained resentment of anything that originated south of Sheffield", and taking into account "the horror stories we hear from London", it was, said a lawyer, "actually quite a good place to work".

  The partners welcomed the London client with open arms  
But City firms were not completely shut out by their country cousins. Bird & Bird, which came second last year, boasted "a genuinely friendly atmosphere that other City firms struggle to match", said a junior solicitor. It was a case of  "the classic boring mantra", said a trainee: "genuinely friendly and approachable people at all levels and the work/life balance". Plus, said a junior solicitor, an "excellent" canteen and coffee bar on the 11th floor "with beautiful views across the city".

7th - Shearman & Sterling (80%)

The Firm of the Year 2015 rounded out the 80%+ elite. As it was a US firm, said a junior solicitor "long hours and weekend work is the norm, not an exception". But "the partners let you have a life outside and there is no dickishness about it". The work, said a colleague, "is Magic Circle quality, but there is none of the weirdness and arrogance that infected my prior (MC) firm". The only downside, said a trainee, "is the lack of a canteen, but that's made up for by a £30 deliveroo allowance". Moneywise, plenty of staff agreed that the the base salary "is very good", but several echoed the view that the bonus target "is laughable". Staff said it comprised 95% or 105% of their billable target, respectively 1950 hours and "a whopping 2050 hours". That aside, partnership prospects "are better now there are salaried partners", and, said a trainee, all with a "fantastic culture which makes the long hours tolerable".
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Anonymous 02 February 18 09:59

How exactly do Shearman partners "let you have a life outside" (which is extremely generous of them), when "long hours and weekend work is the norm"?