Four firms were scored lower than 50% for culture in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year survey.
"The Beckwith case was the tip of a huge iceberg" said a lawyer at Freshfields (49%). "There is plenty coming down the track in the very near future, so much so, the SRA will probably have to open up a new sexual harassment unit to deal with it all." She added that "the firm's approach to 'investigating' and 'disciplining'" was "utterly incompetent" as it had "a sense of arrogance that things need to be done in a certain (inadequate) way."
"Hopefully the press coverage of some of the predators and bullies in the partnership lead to some culture change", said a junior lawyer at Freshfields. "A few obvious candidates are yet to be outed. Would be interesting to see if the new conduct committee prizes rainmaking over ethical obligations." Another senior lawyer pointed to "the great support staff purge three years ago" when "things took a turn for the worse". A junior lawyer said "the annual Christmas bottle of champagne was replaced this year with a tea set. 'Nuff said."
At Blake Morgan (45%) a junior lawyer said "the individual teams have a good culture and the people I work with are great. But that's nothing to do with senior management, who we almost never see in our office." A colleague said "with such poor performance, a toxic blame culture pervades the increasingly empty offices."
"There's an air of resignation about the place" said a junior lawyer at Blake Morgan ."The good have already left, leaving the bad and the ugly at the helm. Staff cafes have closed down, IT has been disastrously outsourced, rendering a poor service even worse." Another member of staff said "it's like a morgue. So many people have left and those who remain are all zombies, the walking dead."
Watson Farley Williams (42%) got the lowest score for culture last year. This year, the firm came second-from-bottom. "The firm has responded to last year's results by setting up a committee, which is promoting both short term 'wins' like introducing a 'dress for your day' clothing policy and free fruit," said a senior lawyer, "and will be looking at longer term changes as well." A junior lawyer said "it's a miserable environment. And getting worse despite the firm re-badging the director of learning and development as director of culture."
"The fact that we have a director of culture at all says it all" said a junior lawyer at WFW. "Despite coming bottom of survey for culture last year the firm has done nothing to improve things and have generally made it worse" said a lawyer. "No wonder there is a continuous stream of people to fighting to leave." A senior lawyer said the firm had "backstabbing associates, warring partners" and "downtrodden PAs. The problem starts at the top when the solution should start there". A colleague said "after last year's result they brought in free fruit before 12 noon. I am afraid the culture here needs more than a free banana to fix it."
Might have helped WFW improve its score by 17% this year.
The Golden Turd of 2020, Slater and Gordon, scored the lowest mark for culture (22%). "No culture, no values and no morals" said one lawyer. Another chimed in "it's a culture of hate and pity".
"Culture as in bacteria that grows and festers?" said a colleague, "Yes, that's life at Slater and Gordon." A business services member of staff said the lawyers were "elitist" as they presumed they had "a clear gap in intelligence" as they "did the LPC." He added, "some of the new breed of fast-track, claims handling CILEx scumbags need to wind their pencil necks in a bit."
"There's a leaving do almost every week," said a senior lawyer at the firm. "Friend after friend has left. It's heartbreaking. I can't see how things will improve until the working conditions improve." Another respondent said "No sense of a future. No sense of professionalism. Just churn work."
The firm is "run out of Liverpool by the Quindell mafia" said a junior lawyer. Another member of staff said, "there's an external message that S&G cares about mental health, but they foster a culture of bullying and turning a blind eye when they know it's happening."