And the unhappiest law firm in the UK is...BCLP.
Staff at Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner gave it the lowest overall score in the huge RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2023 survey, signalling deep dissatisfaction with their firm.
And that means BCLP is this year's Golden Turd, relieving Knights, the 2022 loser, of its embarrassing brown crown.
BCLP's status as UK law's shiny shite represents a spectacular fall from grace for BLP, the legacy firm which was once crowned a RollOnFriday Firm of the Year.
Those glory days feel far away now: four years after merging with Bryan Cave, the firm seems to be losing, not gaining, cohesion.
"Since the merger, management of the firm has been DREADFUL" said a senior solicitor.
"Who knew trying to run a London firm from Missouri would be so difficult", observed another.
The high level of churn within the London partnership, revealed by ROF, was a major focus for concern reflected in comments following that story.
"So many high quality partners have left, that is the really crazy thing about it, just haemorrhaging top people who made the firm what it used to be", rued one person, who remarked that associate ranks had also thinned out: "So much great homegrown talent, destined to be the future of the firm, has just disappeared…!"
"The merger was a stressful enough experience to put anyone off working there, but the Americanisation of the firm has only got more stark as time has gone on", said a former member of BCLP’s business services team.
"Time and again, C-Suite BS roles were moved from London to Chicago or St Louis, and Partners increasingly grumbled about their practices being pulled from under them by Project Advance, a multi-million pound slideshow presentation by McKinsey that made the US the focus of the firm and concentrated on sectors that mattered in the Mid West. London has become a RE cash cow with a handful of other practices hanging onto its coat tails."
More's the pity, they said, because "BLP had a fantastic vibe about it when I joined; it was competitive and scrappy with the firms around it, but friendly and welcoming to those within. That spark and warmth sadly looks to be extinguishing fast and I don't know what it could do to try and recover".
BLP "was a good outfit", agreed another. "Not perfect but a decent brand and did some great deals for its size. The founding partners were titans of their day in that property world, the likes of Stanley Berwin, Laurie Heller, Neil Sinclair, Jon Bennet, Hugh Homan. They’d be turning in their graves if they could see what it’s become now".
A former BLCP solicitor said the current direction of the firm "has done so much damage to the careers of many associates (me included) and partners (lifers and laterals) who made serious commitments to the firm only to have their future careers (and in some cases established practices) irreparably damaged by the firm turning its back on certain sectors".
One positive: "The advantage of legacy BLP partners streaming out the door is it does create more space at the top", admitted a lawyer with their eye on the prize.
Describing the exodus in terms that would make a PR proud, one satisfied solicitor said BCLP "has shown that it is focussed on promoting from within and moving on more senior (less profitable) partners for junior partners with more hunger".
BLP was well-known for its real estate prowess, and the sentiment that career development at BCLP is "hopeless unless you are a real estate lawyer" was shared by a number of respondents.
Complaints hit on other matters, too, though most if not all could be traced back to post-merger management.
"The maternity leave pay is appalling", said one lawyer, who described how management rebuffed proposals by a group of female associates to improve BCLP's package of 13 weeks at 100% and 13 weeks at 50%, even "when competitors are at 6 months (or more) full pay".
"The worst thing is [that] they save on money with their current policy", said the solicitor, citing a practice group in which "I personally know 5 people on mat leave right now and none of them have been replaced with any short term contracts...no wonder most females leave before reaching Partner!"
Others complained that there had been "not a single pay rise in 5 years for senior lawyers", and even a solicitor who conceded that pay was "objectively fine" added the caveat, "but I hate my job so you could pay me seven figures and I'd still be dissatisfied".
The negativity was by no means universal. "I can't say what it's like across the board but Real Estate has a lovely vibe and is filled with great, friendly people", said one lawyer.
In fact, if there was one thing BCLPers liked, it was each other. "There aren't many backstabbers and you can usually find common ground with someone by moaning about the management", said a colleague.
However, "low morale" was a problem, said a junior solicitor. "Everyone is trying to leave. It’s bleak", agreed a colleague. Despite a "good ratio of good people to d**kheads", it "still won’t be enough to keep people if the firm as a whole doesn’t improve", said respondents.
BCLP declined to comment on its latest trophy, which it almost dodged: its people handed it a 29% overall score, and just two more points would have landed another firm with the Golden Turd. But that’s the way the dookie crumbles.
Tune in next week for the overall scores of all the qualifying firms.
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