31 January 2018
Scoring between 70% and 79% in the Firm of the Year survey indicated a very happy workforce indeed. 16 firms ascended to the giddy heights of Very Good.

8th - Trowers & Hamlins, Mayer Brown (79%)


Trowers & Hamlins was "proper friendly innit", said a paralegal. Another noted, "we have two very strong women in power, which provides a great incentive to other women (and men!)". The pay "should be better", said a junior solicitor, but "one only has to look across the road at the stressed out lawyers from Slaughters to realise money is not everything". In fact, their esteemed neighbours were on the minds of a few Trowers' staff. "Poor sods", one Trowers solicitor said. "We probably get paid more by the hour", said another. (No Slaughters staff mentioned Trowers.)

Mayer Brown's lawyers said that London management had "improved immensely" under a new Senior Partner. In descriptions rarely seen in connection with bosses, one junior solicitor described her as "awesome", and another as "fun". A partner said that pay was "not the high end" that "one or two of the disloyal chase", but "it's grown year on year". 

10th - Travers Smith, Kirkland & Ellis (77%)

Slaughter and May was also on the minds of some lawyers at Travers Smith, which was "constantly trying to keep up" with its corporate competitor, said one solciitor. As a result, "I have made several late night escapes down the fire exit to avoid having to walk past the office of certain partners". They liked one similarity with Slaughters, however: the absence of chargeable hours targets. Other said Travers was a "lovely" place to work, with junior solicitors agreeing that it was "just a really friendly firm with a strong culture". There were grumbles about the across-the-board 6% bonus (too small apparently), but in many other respects it got a thumbs up.

Kirkland & Ellis pulled off a glorious turnaround after last year's harsh result, with lawyers keen to set the record straight. The money was "genuinely excellent", said a senior solicitor. "Bonuses are also exceptional". Plenty concurred, which was no surprise considering it pays perhaps the highest wages in UK law. But career development also received plaudits. "You can make (non-equity) partner in six years", said a senior solicitor And while K&E was "famously aggressive to other law firms", inside "it's very matey" said a solicitor. As for work/life balance, "What work life balance?" said a solicitor. "You are EXPECTED to work through weekends, holidays, in sickness and in health, 'til death do YOU part". That meant "typically working 13/14+ hours each day", said a trainee. But, said a colleague, "at the end of the day, with the pay rates, we all know what we're signing up for".

"You may be required to work outside of office hours once you have exchanged your soul".  
12th - Weil, TLT (76%)

Weil lawyers were also happiest with pay. "After years of wrangling from the associates", said one, "Weil has finally stepped up its game". As a result of the December pay review,  "My pay went up by 20%", said a junior solciitrom, "which was a pleasant surprise".

At TLT, pay was "appropriate", said a junior solicitor, as staff were "not expected to be beasted" and, said another, "everyone is expected to have a life outside of the office". A colleague suggested that, actually, the Bristol firm's pay needed "to catch up with Burges Salmon and Osborne Clarke". Plenty of staff, though, agreed that the people and culture were "both genuine and pleasant".

14th - Squire Patton Boggs, Penningtons Manches, Macfarlanes (75%)

Squire Patton Boggs was "not a sweatshop" despite the US connection, said a solicitor. And the non-Kirkland-level pay was "justified", said a partner, "by a tacit acknowledgement by the UK LLP that it's a 'lifestyle' choice to work here". However, she said, the US side of the business took "an entirely different view", which was slightly unfortunate given that it "holds the purse strings".

Penningtons Manches staff were muted in their praise. It was "friendly", said a junior solicitor, and "fine for the size", said another, but "nothing to write home about". "Not bad for a regional firm", managed a junior solicitor.

Macfarlanes management "try very hard to foster the firm's culture", said a senior solicitor, "in the few hours left in the week after fee-earning". A junior solicitor said he "always gets the impression that they know what they are doing", and while "the ethos is conservative", when "you look at KWM you don't particularly mind". Generally, said a colleague, "the place feels inclusive and meritocratic". The IT was "shocking", but "that's a firm tradition". And, said a senior solicitor, the new bonus system "to differentiate between those killing themselves and those chugging along under the radar" had been "well received". Macfarlanes, said a senior solicitor, was doing nicely "occupying an increasingly deserted corner of the market", with Slaughters "glaring disdainfully at the person who went to a slightly worse public school sharing its reading carriage".
Slaughters tried not to snigger when noticing Macfarlanes was wearing trousers with a belt loop and a pocket shirt  


17th - White & Case, Latham & Watkins, Fieldfisher (74%)

"Most of us get paid more than the Prime Minister", said a White & Case junior solicitor said, "no complaints". Plenty of others highlighted the "great" pay. When busy, "it is terrible", said a trainee, "but I went in with my eyes open". A junior solicitor said, "I'm looking at a 2,500 hour year but there's no culture of facetime: on the 2 occasions I have finished before 11pm I've left without anyone batting a proverbial eyelid". Others praised the firm's "excellent" quality of work, with a trainee (a trainee partner, that is) stating that he had "already drafted main transaction documents and taken lead on deals".

At Fieldfisher, Managing Partner Michael Chissick was praised for turning the firm around in the last five years, although pay got a walloping precisely because of the stellar financials. As did the buggy new time recording system. One lawyer recalled a colleague "recording over 7000 (yes, thousand) hours" when "they left their timer running over the weekend unknowingly". 

At US firm Latham & Watkins, pay is matched to the US salaries. The megabucks were on staff's minds. "The FX rate isn't great", said a senior solicitor. "But it seems churlish to complain about only earning double MC counterparts' salaries".

20th - Gowling WLG (72%)

The Brum and London components of WLG Gowling appear to have merged with success. GWLG "has had its ups and downs over the years", said a senior solicitor, but now "there is a real momentum and energy". Another agreed, but added that the culture was "so beige" it was "like a questionable platter at one of those shitty events you don't want to be at - the kind that serves samosas, spring rolls, sausage rolls, potato waffles and chicken nuggets". The upside of beige, perhaps, is the "genuinely decent people". It was, said a new GWLGer, "slightly unsettling given the psychopathic narcissists from previous firms". 

21st - Slaughter and May, Hogan Lovells (71%)

Slaughter and May was the happiest Magic Circle firm. "We do have a clear sense of culture here", said a junior solicitor, "which I think is down to the firm's size relative to other Magic Circle firms". It was "smart, conservative and posh with a helping of arrogance", said a colleague. "Pretty ok with the gays (like me) though: even the firm colour is purple". Others enjoyed "knowing that you are the best on every transaction no matter who else is on the other side", and "knowing that they are intimidated of you". The partners also "respect weekends" said a junior solicitor, while "£80k for an NQ is stonking money", said a trainee. "Yes it might not be up there with an American firm, but I am 25. It is more money than I know what to do with".

At Hogan Lovells, on 71%, "despite the merger and the Americans trying to get their way all the time", said a solicitor, "it's still (in the main) a collegiate and friendly place to work". The planned refurb "may see us all going open plan", however, a rumour which has incited "uproar".

23rd - Eversheds Sutherland (70%)

With a huge (and largely positive) response from staff, the reaction to the US merger could best be described as positive-to-ambivalent, One solicitor said it "has had very little impact from a UK perspective", although it was "encouraging to see the network expanding". Even before turnover crossed $1 billion, staff were suggesting that it should probably, surely, definitely pay staff more moollah. But, "You know what, when they're good, they're very good people", said a junior solicitor. "Everyone who leaves for bigger and better things always says they'll miss the people. And they do when they realise quite a lot of places have much worse pricks than the occasional bad apples here. And we often miss the leavers too. Because we're nice". 
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Comments

Anonymous 05 Feb 18

"The pay "should be better", said a junior [Trowers] solicitor, but "one only has to look across the road at the stressed out lawyers from Slaughters to realise money is not everything""

If Trowers associates can't master simple concepts, such as the fact that when two buildings are located adjacent to each other one building cannot be described as being "across the road" from the other, then it's no wonder they earn so little.

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