2020 was a great year for everyone, but lawyers in private practice are hoping 2021 will be even better.
An early peek at RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Survey responses (don't worry, there's still time to enter at the bottom of the page) reveals an expectation that pay rises, bonuses and eager calls from legal recruiters will all make a triumphant return in the coming months.
A senior solicitor at former FOTY winner Burges Salmon said things were already looking up as, "in a pleasant surprise", pay reviews were scheduled for 1st Jan.
Clifford Chance paid bonuses and increased salaries in November, said a solicitor at the Magic Circle firm, and salaries were set to be reviewed again in May.
Others registered their frustration at the prospect of delays. "Pay wasn't great to begin with", said a junior lawyer at last year's FOTY victor, Mills & Reeve, "but salary reviews were recently deferred again", until May, "even though the firm is outperforming last year's pandemic-free figures by all key metrics".
The same concern was echoed at Dentons, where a junior lawyer said reviews due in January 2021 had been postponed to July, "and yet some partners choose to harp on about much certain other partners earn".
A 2020 freeze "seems fair in the grand scheme of things", said an Addleshaw Goddard lawyer, but "hopefully" there will be pay rises in 2021 "given the firm is flying in some areas".
Once a nuisance, the legal recruiter's cold call is now a dream to certain solicitors. The pandemic "turbophucked recruitment for roles in my area across the City" said a junior lawyer at Squire Patton Boggs, "otherwise I would've run ages ago. Perhaps in 2021..."
At Womble Bond Dickinson, second year trainees are also looking for light at the end of the tunnel after their contracts were extended by six months. "The firm has claimed that this is only a delay to the ordinary recruitment process, and that the NQ process will instead take place in March 2021", said one of them. "A sceptic might doubt how many roles will be available given the fee earner redundancies."
2020 set the bar so low, even crammed tubes and traffic jams look fun to a few. "The worst thing about work used to be the hour-each-way commute", said a lawyer at Burges Salmon. "Come 2021 I think I will actually enjoy the commute when we return to the office (for a while)."
Although plenty of lawyers are hopeful, even more are reserving judgment, and some are downright pessimistic.
"Career development?" exclaimed a business services employee at reigning Golden Turd Slater and Gordon. "How can you have a career at a firm that wont be in business next year?"
"We have no idea if the business will be here next week, never mind next year", wrote a colleague. "Constant management changes, closing of offices and this was before the pandemic...It is stressful".
Others are trying to embrace the smaller lives they have been forced to lead, and pause to smell the roses. "I have taken myself to task this year", said a Keystone partner in late 2020, "and am aiming to be more 'life' focussed in 2021". As for one Pinsent Masons trainee, thoughts of pay, pandemic, health and lifestyle are fripperies. The real concern, and the reason they would leave their firm, is "the possibility of ending up in a property or infrastructure seat in 2021". Harsh.
Enter the survey here.