Eight firms fell into the Meh category in the Firm of the Year 2018 survey. So close to being in the clover of the high 60s. But it wasn't to be.

43rd - DWF, Addleshaw Goddard, PwC, Stephenson Harwood (64%)

Dozens of DWF staff praised its agile working initiatives. "Fantastic", said one. "I have a baby and a horse and need to be flexible", said another, richer, one. A junior solicitor said that, despite DWF "being essentially a patchwork of around 3,000,000 different firms", its culture "is clear and people seem to genuinely buy into it". Others demurred, and a few were so awestruck by the rate of growth they raised the spectre of an infamous ex-firm also harking from the north:"Sometimes", said a solicitor, "I wonder when we are going to be the next Halliwells". As for the brand, said a junior solicitor, "I am no longer surprised when people HONESTLY think I work at a furniture store".

At Addleshaw Goddard, pay was on their minds. "A slew of exits across departments has kicked the firm into implementing pay rises of 8-12%", said a junior solicitor, "to FINALLY bring them into competition with their peers". The overriding flavour was that pay "has got steadily better", though some said it "remains below market rate". But "kudos goes to the partner who explained that AG pay market rate", said a junior solicitor, but that, "it's just that every other firm pays above market rate".

Due to whelming demand from its lawyers, PwC was inducted into the survey this year. "It needs to be on your list", said one senior solicitor. A junior solicitor said, "We like to think we are doing something different, but most of the time we are just like any other firm". He added, "It's not horrendous, but really not great". It's in.

"I've heard of the word 'bonus' before but I'm not sure what it means?", said a junior solicitor at Stephenson Harwood. "Is it a type of herb?". They "expect you to work US hours for crap pay". A junior solicitor said "It's a good firm", but "it's going through a lot of changes".  The culture "is shifting towards a more magic circle attitude, and if this going to be the case then the remuneration needs to change too". AOB? "I like how our trainees puke at official events and punch overseas managing partners", said one solicitor. "It's fun and keeps you on your toes".

"Yep, it's a hoot a minute here"  

47th - Clyde & Co, Clifford Chance (62%)

Clyde & Co, said a junior solicitor, was "Riding a surging wave of global expansion". He hoped that "Sooner or later we'll run out of industrial cities" and "finally find somewhere sunny" to open an office so he can get seconded there. But others were annoyed that the firm's success was not bringing them silver, and the firm was marked down for pay. The last salary review was "disastrous", said a junior solicitor. She said salary bands were reduced, "leaving associates earning less than those in the year ahead of them earned at the same level". In "stark contrast to what the firm's PR machine was spouting on about to the press - revenue increase, global expansion and 'more success'... no signs of that success in salary". "Depending on your cases", however, work/life balance was "better than many City firms".

Clifford Chance's reputation "is stellar", career development "generally is excellent" and "CC pays a lot" (subject to gripes about US firm pay and other MC salaries). It also "asks a lot in return", said a senior solicitor, but "it is a clear deal that does not suit everyone". However, work/life balance was an issue for quite a few respondents. There was, said one, "a survey recently where you placed tokens in boxes that related to your current stress level. As you can imagine, the 'very stressed' box was by far the fullest. The boxes vanished suddenly mere hours after they were put out and never mentioned by the firm again".

There were some early signs that CC wasn't taking the boxes that seriously  

Career development was on the minds of lots of Herbies respondents. "It all depends on what group you're in to be honest", said one junior solicitor. "Some supervisors care more about their PA booking them an aisle seat on their next flight than your professional development. Others take time to review your objectives and any holes in your training". An NQ said "I think it's telling that all bar 2 in my intake opted to stay with HSF", adding that a "guaranteed international secondment as a trainee is also a massive perk". However a senior solicitor grumbled that "some partners are well-known for the fact that no senior associate has ever been made up to partner in their team on their watch". Which was "pretty disheartening when you find yourself working for such a partner". In "much of the firm" said a senior solicitor, "sure, women can be partners, but not if they want to actually see their children". Another said "Friends of mine in other departments have been told that flexible working 'just doesn't work for fee earners' or that they might be offered a 9 day fortnight, but it would depend on work commitments. I'm not sure that's a recognised tick-box in the search criteria on childcare.co.uk". 

51st - CMS (60%)

CMS' takeover of Nabarro and Olswang received mixed marks. Nabarro and Olswang staff "were all doing cartwheels on pay review", said a CMS associate, "as they were bumped up to CMS levels". This "has shut a few people's mouths", said a junior associate. But not all of them. Legacy Nabarro staff "feel like the partnership sold them down the river for a bit of extra cash", said a junior solicitor. "The way the support staff were turfed out was appalling", she added. "A lot more took redundancy than was expected and CMS NabWang launched in May short on secretaries". The Olswang partners "were bad pre-merger", said one of their underlings. "Post-merger they've reached next level. They're walking round trying to pretend like everything is ok. Constantly publishing crap on social media about how amazing CMS is". Sounds like a #faultlessintegration #CMSmashedIt
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Anonymous 06 February 18 23:07

DWF mmmm, what is it, what does it want to be and how big will the debt mountain grow as it tries to get there?