Indicative of the so-so satisfaction levels of lawyers in private practice, a great glob of firms were bunched together between 64% and 69%. They did fine. Just a bit more edge crept into the comments from staff.

24th - BLP, Jones Day, Ince & Co, Dentons (69%)

As it tries to get its merger to stick, at least BLP's staff proved to be fans of the firm. "It might be a bit naive", said a junior solicitor, "but generally the people who work hard seem to be rewarded rather than those who play politics". As for welcoming "our new Yankee overlords", it "feels like the firm has been treading water desperately, hoping for a merger for the last 2 years", said one solicitor. "Hopefully once it goes through there will be some fresh momentum (for better or worse)".

Jones Day's score was apt given the murmurings of sexual shenanigans in some of the responses. One junior lawyer raised the "overfriendliness of some of the male partners" as an issue. While a group of senior male solicitors all gave the firm high marks, others offered an alternative view. A female solicitor said lateral partners were "mindlessly recruited on 3 year deals" and then "leave immediately once they find out what a shitshow London management is". Another respondnet claimed that the Managing Partner "once did a presentation for associates branding those who leak to RollOnFriday as 'Whiners', with a big stop sign across the word". Apparently, "he thinks that was inspirational". Can't disagree.

Ince & Co was another 69er, with staff viewing it as a promising work in progress after some "shocking reviews" in recent surveys. The firm "definitely has recovered well from a few rocky years" said a trainee. There was praise for its modernisation drive and introduction of agile working.  Although one junior solicitor rued the "reams" of associates who were leaving without being replaced, complaining, "My largest expenditure after rent, food and bills is buying leaving presents".

The goliath that is Dentons "is very big, but in no way feels rudderless", said a senior solicitor. Management was "constantly communicating about what they are planning", said a trainee, "which is nice". Although, "You would think they would be better at mergers considering they do it so often", she added, "but things still feel very disorganised". A senior solicitor said that Dentons' merger strategy was "much like Star Trek's 'The Borg'.'You will be assimilated - resistance is futile'". His suggestion that, for some firms, "the collective offers a warm embrace in the dark, vast, empty void of (legal) space" did appear to fit floundering Maclay Murray & Spens. Its staff were largely relieved to be gulped up. For Dentons staff, it meant a massive infusion of all the Scottish firm's' Tunnocks Teacakes. Several agreed with the solicitor who called the edible dowry "the highlight of the year". 

The Dentons due diligence team checked  55,000 MMS teacakes pre merger   

28th - BDB, Pinsent Masons, Mishcon de Reya, CRS, RPC, Simmons & Simmons, Womble Bond Dickinson (68%)

BDB was "well organised" and "paternalistic", said a senior solicitor, if "occasionally overly-accountant-led" Spare a thought for staff working on the same floor as a "leading partner" who, said a staffer, "thinks it's appropriate to shout to himself in his office in the third person". His door is 'broken', "so the rest of the open plan office must deal with his tirades".

The "mishandled" PA redundancies irked staff at Pinsent Masons, and while life at PM was generally deemed "pretty decent", there were a number of grumbles about pay. Even from partners, one of whom highlighted the "massive proportion of 'partners'" who "are powerless salaried employees", and one of whom said it "constantly rankles that fairly junior lawyers in London" were "paid more than senior lawyers in the regions, who contribute a huge amount more". Snacks were "excellent" after "an upgrade last year", said a junior solicitor. "Albeit this was followed up with a stern email warning us not to take snacks from meeting rooms for our own consumption".

At Mishcon de Reya, the firm-wide pay rise last year was "welcome", said staff, although a junior solicitor said it was "galling that partners spend most of the year on holiday and when they are finally in the office they clock off at 3pm". Surely not. Another junior solicitor praised the "good PR", but said there was some "hypocrisy between the brand and the reality inside the walls of Africa House".

CSR mounted an impressive rebound up the table after the merger between Charles Russell and Speechlys provoked a dire score last year. People "seem to have moved on" said a junior solicitor. Those who were "not happy about it" have left and "there are plenty of new recruits" who "aren't weighed down by merger baggage". One nagging imbalance persists: "the CR lot are generally in nice cellular offices and the SB lot are in a cramped call centre next door". CSR "should win the award for 'most cringe firm'" said a junior lawyer, "after putting on a Christmas panto called 'Snow White and the Seven Values'". It was "actually very well done and a lot of hard work went into it", said another lawyer.

Plenty of staff agreed with the senior solicitor who said RPC's work/life balance was "fantastic", and that the firm was "brilliant" at flexible working. However some female staff also agreed with her that "at the senior end of the firm", there were "many, many more male promotions, with female lawyers left behind". She said, "this is because the partners tend to promote in their image, and most of them (around 90%) are male". A junior solicitor concurred that "the complete absence of any female partners in the Bristol office is not very encouraging". Elsewhere, the removal of the bonus stuck in the craw, particularly because target hours were retained. "It went down like a cup of cold sick" probably sums it up.

"This has to be Simmons' strong point", said a senior solicitor: "a low proportion of massive wankers. The firm seems to be getting more comfortable with this again, after last year's 'let's stop being nice' initiative". A trainee said the "will-they-won't-they US merger nonsense (they won't)" was used "as an excuse to pump profitability", flogging staff without commensurate pay rises. But a partner will surely reassure all with her comment that "this is an English law firm with pounds as the key currency". UKIPtastic.

At WBD, "things are by no means perfect", said a senior solicitor, "but WBD appear very keen to retain talent, when it is very easy to lose parents (especially mothers) to in-house roles". Others appreciated being able to work "for a reputable national firm in the north-east", rather than "having to go to London". Although one junior wag said this meant the culture was "Bristolians and Geordies: Lady and the tramp(s)". Another junior was very harsh on himself, grumbling that "by calling ourselves 'womble' we confirmed that we're a parody of a firm". 

35th - Linklaters, NRF, Baker McKenzie, Hill Dickinson (67%)

Linklaters was the second-highest rated Magic Circle firm. There was annoyance with pay, but also satisfaction. "Can't complain", said a senior solicitor. "Goes toe-to-toe with other Magic Circle competitors and I don't want to pay the personal price of working at a US firm". US firms "extract an extra ounce of flesh", said a junior solicitor, "and the extra pay wouldn't cover the blood loss". Others were less relaxed. "Even if you have a year of 125%+ utilisation", said a senior solicitor, "bonuses don't reflect this unless you work for a partner who shouts everyone else down in the moderation meeting". On work/life balance, Linklaters "means well", said a solicitor, "says all the right things and does try (plus has some great policies like working from home one day a week)". But "at the end of the day the work has to be done when the client/partner/astrological chart says it has to be done". So "overnights/weekends/cancelled holidays" were "common". A trainee said that "everyone here is very nice", vouching that "I've never met a raging hard cock, just a few half masts". Although, said a solicitor, one group "is living in a time warp". She said "their idea of moving to a more meritocratic process was banning alcohol at associates' appraisal moderation meetings". One step at a time.

At least one NRF lawyer also didn't fancy the US way. "I left to take the yankee dollar", said a Norton Rose Fulbright lawyer. "Realised I'd made a terrible mistake, and came back". The City office had other things going for it., too. "In Germany at least, the cookies are a disgrace", said a partner. "London is much better and even has nuts". Plans for open plan were less popular. "They've got Gestapo-esque floor inspectors assessing how many lawyers they can cram into a room", said a senior solicitor, who supplied a snapshot and prophesied that "in a few years we'll look like this (only far less happy, 'cos we're lawyers):" 
    Pals all around, what's not to like? 

Baker McKenzie was "great at trainee level", said one of them, "although they didn't honour the three grand signing bonus they'd put in their contracts, calling it an 'administrative error'". Another trainee said the firm was "inclusive to a fault", with "lots of impetus on diversity and inclusion initiatives". But "interestingly none of those students seem to make it to the training contract stage". Plenty agreed with the trainee who said Bakers people were "genuinely really friendly, helpful and nice". Higher up the chain, a junior solicitor approved Bakers' growth, but said "there are lots of hungry Senior Associates, and part of the expansion is being filled laterally". Hold on, respondent, because there will probably be at least one vacancy opening up at a very senior level very soon.

Hill Dickinson partners were happy, writing that the firm "is full of real, straightforward people who don't have their heads up their own arses". Another said "we have excellent junior staff who are keen to work as long as necessary to get a matter finished". He may or not have been a parody account, although even a non-partner agreed that the firm had "Improved a huge amount over the last 12 months", while others vouched for the work-life balance. 

39th - DLA Piper, Taylor Wessing (66%)

At DLA Piper, "London pay is good", said a junior solicitor, "but there is a huge discrepancy in respect of pay in the regional offices". A pay review, said another junior "was marketed as a chance for alignment across the UK offices but ultimately resulted in London-only increases". Still, said a senior solicitor, "the bonus package is up to 40% of salary and does pay out". A junior bemoaned that DLA "is a pretty underrated firm (at least in London)". She said, "It has huge mandates but it seems unable to change its perception", despite having "long left behind the likes of Eversheds and Addleshaws". The question "is whether it is in the same bracket as the likes of Ashurst and Clyde & Co". In more prosaic news, "there is a note on one of the ladies' toilets", said a junior lawyer, "that says whoever keeps throwing food down the sink or being sick in the sink must stop or she will be reportedThat sign has been there for over a year now".

Taylor Wessing had some "genuinely nice people", said a senior solicitor/. Another solicitor said it also had "one of the lowest female partner rates in the City".

41st - Reed Smith, DAC Beachcroft (65%)

Despite its sturdy score, Reed Smith's commentariat were harsh. "Swamped by Americanization", said one lawyer. "Everything is referable to statistics, and messages are conveyed IN ANNOYING CAPITAL LETTERS AND LITTERED BY WEIRD PUNCTUATION!!! Because apparently that's what the Yanks like". A senior solicitor described the "annual circus" of "watching ashen-faced middle management mumble to a crowd of baying associates why hours are increasing but pay isn't". The push to 1650 hours in 2018 "hasn't gone down too well with some", agreed a junior solicitor.   

At DACB, there was considerable debate about career progression. "Dead mans shoes and partners pets are the only way to progress", said a senior solicitor. But, countered a junior lawyer, "If you are vocal about your career progression, as I have been, it will be duly considered. I suspect that if you stay silent, it probably won't". Another junior solicitor said, "I was recently tapped up by a market-leading pay firm and they matched it to make me stay". He said it was "definitely a meritocracy at DACB - people complain about progression but they need to look at themselves. We have loads of very young Partners and it's because your trajectory is based on ability, not PQE". More importantly, a junior solicitor revealed that he once attended "an excruciating training session on billing, during which a partner played air guitar to Kickstart My Heart by Motley Crue. I don't think I need to say anything more about that. I can feel you wincing from here".
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