The Firm of the Year 2015 results for career development survey reveal which firms guide their future partners with the wisdom of Aslan, and which just chew them up and spit them out when they're too frail to bundle.

US firms Kirkland & Ellis and Jones Day come joint first, representing a triumph for Jones Day's unusual non-rotational training contract. Trainees say it works well as long as they are "pro-active enough" to seek work and supervision. A trainee at Kirkland & Ellis says that even though they get "beasted with a workload from hell every other week" the higher-ups are willing to explain matters "even if it's 4 am". Others say that partners spend "all their energy on power struggles" and "little on associate development", but all is forgiven because "fuck me the money is good".

Firm of the Year Shearman & Sterling comes joint second place with Clarke Willmott, where a partner declares that the "youngest equity partner is 32", while there's disturbing evidence that L&D buzzwords are gaining traction. An Osborne Clarke NQ praises the career progression plan known as "The Deal"  while a Mishcon lawyer says the lecture series known as "The Academy" is "thought-provoking and mind-expanding", so bounce that what-if ball round your brain court.

    A healthy partner-associate-promotion dynamic yesterday

BLP also does well, though its 71% comes with a few pointers. A senior associate says the quality of work is "excellent" but promotions are "very politicised" with "brown-nosing essential". A pragmatic junior advises, "come here for the training", then take it where "you're either (a) paid better for the expectations" or "(b) given more of a break for the lower salary".

At Linklaters, a junior says that "beyond pinning you down and forcing in a copy of Halsbury's" he's "not sure they could do much more". Although another says "awful idea for the year" is the firm's requirement that all associates nominate a second practice area, "Read: this is where we will dump you if we don't need you any longer, so that you quit and we don't need to fire you". Slaughters ranks one point below its Magic Circle rival. Comments on the "fantastic" training are sprinkled with warnings from juniors that there is "no hiding in the shadows" at the elite firm, which can be "daunting" The other side will comprise junior, mid and senior associates, "whereas you will be on your own". Another agrees, "it's sink or swim here". Gulp.  

Further down the table, HogLove loses points for the qualification round last March described by one surviver as a "bloodbath", while a Clifford Chance associate says her firm's idea of supporting associates who are being "worked to death" is to "lay on resilience workshops". Hard work is the order of the day (and night) at Herbies, too, where associates promise that "if you flagellate yourself for long enough, you'll make partner".

Norton Rose Fulbright, on 61%, is given credit by one associate who feels "a lot less like a dancing precedent monkey than I did at my last firm". However another whispers that if HR don't like you, "you're likely to get shipped off to Athens, Paris" or "a crappy client secondment; the raggy doll seats".

But NRF landed well clear of the bottom five positions, unlike DAC Beachcroft. It earned 49% for a perception of "nigh on non-existent" career opportunities. An associate says that there appears to be "no desire" to grow the practice in a direction that "doesn't involve the insurance market".

Charles Russell Speechlys collects a dismal 36% from its staff, who say partners take "little interest" in their career and prefer a policy of "sweating the assets". It's even more stunted at Parabis, where lawyers feel that the bosses "could not care less about employees". Like some ghastly lobotomy conveyor belt, one solicitor says Parabis will place people in-house with insurance clients then "forget about you", the insurance tasks "deskill you" and then "you basically forget you were ever a solicitor".  

And quite rightly the Golden Turd winner takes last place, with a junior solicitor vouching that the training is "non-existent" and a partner promising that the quality of work "rivals that of a 5 year old with a colouring pencil".   
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Anonymous 10 February 15 11:53

Kirkland at the top is very misleading. You are pretty much guaranteed salaried partnership at six years there but this is simply a title and you are no different to any other senior associate. The jump to equity is almost impossible and a lateral move either to salaried partner or equity is equally difficult. Effectively you become trapped as a senior associate with a partner business card.

Despite all of that you can't argue it is a great firm with good partners and top work. It just depends on what you expect long term from your career.