In the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2019 survey there were mixed responses from staff at firms that neither rose to the top of the career development table nor sunk to the very bottom.
"Development is good in that if you stick around and generally aren't a total dick, you're almost guaranteed to move up the ranks" said a senior lawyer at Travers Smith (70%). He was less positive about "godawful" mandatory training sessions in "people management" that came with senior roles. Another lawyer said "you can definitely take on more responsibility at Travers if you prove yourself", although "don't expect anyone to give you a straight answer about where your career is going. At best you'll get various references to 'potential' while they slowly back away from you".
At Linklaters (62%) a keen junior lawyer was impressed with development that includes "bi-monthly meetings to discuss progression, mentorship schemes and constant training". A senior lawyer agreed that the "training is the best in the market." However for actual progression, a senior lawyer said "there are next to no conversations about performance or how to improve/broaden your scope of work until you get a tap on the shoulder (or not) at about 10 PQE." Another senior lawyer felt that to reach partnership in a small team "you essentially have to wait for a partner to retire/die/seriously fuck up before you get the nod". One senior lawyer believed that "partnership remains a mythical beast with the chances of being made up similar to Leicester City winning the premiership - so hey, it could happen to someone".
A Linklaters partner is spotted in the staff canteen
A junior lawyer at Watson Farley Williams (67%) complained of stunted development which resulted in "lawyers above 2PQE finding it hard to move on due to poor work quality and training." He added that the firm is "obsessed with hiring laterally from US and Magic Circle firms as home developed lawyers just aren't on the same level." Another junior commented that "certain teams are shrinking and many partners are coming in from outside".
At DAC Beachcroft (63%), one senior lawyer said that those who wished to advance would need "the ear of a partner who has power or influence." Another senior lawyer noted that although support was available there was "no pressure" on lawyers who did not wish to progress up the ladder. One junior described "the hierarchical structure" as being "less pyramid more football pitch".
"Progression is linked to social media butt-kissing about values" said a senior lawyer at DWF (59%). Another lawyer confirmed: "if you spend all day on Yammer and Linkedin preaching the firm's 'values' then you will be fine".
At Squire Patton Boggs (59%), a junior believed that power remained with the overlords across the pond: "it often feels like an upwards battle to progress, with practice group leaders needing approval from the US before promoting team members to the next level." Another junior said that "brown nosers get bumped up for promotion, while those who don’t cut it get the shaft". A partner, taking a different view, acknowledged that while "the stars are well looked after, we're a bit too nice to the under-performers sometimes". He concluded "I'd rather that than work in a complete bear-pit."