Latham and Watkins has won RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2014, wrestling the crown from two-time winner Ince & Co and just beating off Bird & Bird. It took the trophy with an impressive overall 89% score.

RollOnFriday Firm of the Year is the definitive law firm satisfaction survey, inviting staff at firms across the UK (and Australia too) to give the lowdown on what life's really like at their shop. They rate their firm for pay, work-life balance, management openness, career prospects, commitment to diversity and pro bono work. As well as the all-important categories of biscuits, loos and parties.

Latham & Watkins scored very highly for both career prospects (96%) and management transparency (94%). But if one were to pick a single reason it won? As one junior associate puts it, "Money money money, always sunny, in a rich wo/man's world". Respondents rate the firm 100% for pay. It is "awesome" says one NQ (salary = £98k). "Great", says another, and as pay is pegged to the US dollar "there's an extra payrise as the dollar gets stronger".

Latham lawyers celebrate winning RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2014, and completely filling its office with money

But the firm did very well in almost all categories. Staffers rate the firm 100% for pro bono work, with respondents pointing out that Latham counts pro bono hours towards their billing targets. Everyone has their own office too, "so we can shut the door and listen to Kylie to our heart's content". The partners ("especially those we stole from CC") are apparently "all good fun and generally very approachable", and "in general" the people are "all fun and friendly and provide a good shoulder to cry on".

What could possibly make them cry, except tripping over piles of gold? "Brutal hours", answers one respondent. The US connection can also mean working "across time zones from east to west", which "can be tough". Plus there's work at weekends and meetings "really early in the morning - not cool", which is reflected in the work/life balance score of 67%. Which still isn't terrible, suggesting that Lathams lawyers accept the downside that comes with the money. That would explain why they also mark the firm highly for career opportunities even though one claimed "I am more likely to spontaneously combust" than be made a partner.

Lawyers who moved to Lathams from Magic Circle firms say they have no regrets: "I enjoy far greater autonomy and flexibility than at my old firm", says one. Another agrees it has been a "great experience and level of responsibility compared to magic circle friends at the same level". In conclusion: "Love. It. Sad but true."

London Managing Partner Nick Cline said, “We’re delighted to top the table as Firm of the Year. Despite growing quickly in London we’ve worked hard to retain our collegial and open environment. Our culture is something we’re proud of and everyone in the office plays a part in creating it. Our biscuits aren't bad either..."

Meanwhile, Bird & Bird is the lone UK firm to appear amongst the US-dominated top of the table. It took silver with a very creditable 86%. Sure, the canteen is "a bit of a dungeon" and the office is split across three buildings, but the new gaff is under construction. One associate notes that salaries are "below US firms, but the hours are the same". However far more agreed with the trainee who said Bird & Bird has "seemingly much better hours than any other firm of its size - and friendlier too". Staff handed the firm 95% for its work/life balance, which is the highest score in the category this year. "Decent hours, friendly people, non-hierarchical, good opportunities for foreign secondments", summed up one senior associate. "All round great place to work".

Shearman & Sterling came third for the second year running, with an excellent 84% overall score. Lawyers praise the "great client base" and the "good work", but most of all the "friendly and approachable staff" and the "very laid back atmosphere". Which means there's some compensation for the "dreadful" hours as "when a deal bites you realise how much more pleasant it is to work long hours with people you actually like". Shearman also won plaudits for its "modern and flexible approach" to working mothers. As one newly-joined junior associate says, "the ROF summary of the firm is fairly true - a genuinely nice place to work".

Check back next week for all firms' results and a breakdown of performance by category.
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Anonymous 31 January 14 09:43

"as pay is linked to the US dollar "there's an extra payrise as the dollar gets stronger"."

Good grasp of basic economics there.

Anonymous 31 January 14 16:05

The fact that L&W wons with a worklife balance score of only 67% and 'brutal hours' seems somehow wrong but shows that money is a crucial factor for many young associates. I'd go for Bird&Bird over any US firm any day (but i am biased...)