The Firm of the Year survey, which is open for your contribution over Christmas, has been hoovering up responses from lawyers at Magic Circle firms.

It is early days, but at this stage the elite firms appear to have a lot in common. In particular, lawyers at each are convinced that theirs is the skinflint. "Aside from the NQ salary", said a Linklaters lawyer, "we are now the worst paid firm in the Magic Circle". "Our 4 PQE pay is less than the 3 PQE pay at other Magic Circles" said a Clifford Chance associate. Allen & Overy is the "last in Magic Circle by a mile", according to an A&O junior. Slaughter and May is "still not competitive with the rest of the Magic Circle", said an SandM associate. 

The grass is not much greener at Freshfields. "Okay, so we get told we're top of the Magic Circle", conceded a 2PQE. "But it's still slightly nauseating to see friends at US firms taking home twice as much". On that point, too, lawyers at other MC firms are in agreement. Although an A&O senior associate said that taking issue with pay relative to US firms was "a red herring" and that MC firms "have a fundamental issue with their model". Associates and trainees "work themselves to the ground for what is effectively one reason: boosting partners' profits", he said, when employees would be much happier if partners "each accepted, say, £50k less per year and this in turn allowed A&O to improve resources/work-balance/pay of its employees".

    "And so we've decided to pay ourselves...£50k less!" 

Work-life balance is a struggle across the board. A Clifford Chance associate said, "all attempts at hobbies have failed. I am resigned to eating 3 meals a day at my desk fuelled by caffeine and adrenaline". A Links lawyer said simply: "average 123 chargeable hours per week for last 3 months". 

A senior associate at Freshfields said, "It is nearly impossible to maintain a transactional practice and have a family". She said the firm "does try hard to implement family friendly policies", but "Individual partners undermine this by promising clients everything under the sun - with ridiculous timescales". 

Slaughter and May doesn't have target hours but, said a junior, it "doesn't need target hours", because associates "will happily achieve annual hours in excess of the most demanding US firms in the London market". A Trowers lawyer said it cheered him right up "when I pass by those poor sods in Slaughter and May as I leave the office on Friday night to go down the pub with my mates". 

There were also positives. Slaughter and May was a "hugely professional and interesting place to work", said an associate, "full of some of the cleverest and most dedicated people you will meet". Also at Slaughters, "the loo butlers" who come round "like every couple of hours". And as we're talking toilets, here's a beautiful capsule review from Linklaters: "Skid marks only stay around for an hour or so usually. People tend to avoid pissing on the floor. Though the abrasive toilet paper has, I’m pretty sure, given me a brief bout of piles". Lovely stuff, and important. Keep it coming.

Give back this Christmastime. Complete the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2018 survey, or the in-house lawyers survey. Father Rofmas appreciates it.
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Anonymous 22 December 17 10:45

I am sorry to be contrary here, but to the associate who claims to "average 123 chargeable hours per week for last 3 months" : that is utter b*llocks.

Anonymous 22 December 17 11:09

"average 123 chargeable hours per week"

Pull the other one.

Assuming a 7 day week that is 17.5 chargeable hours a day...which is just not plausible.

Anonymous 22 December 17 12:28

To fair, 123 hours a week sounds like he has simply added the standard "padding" to his timer

Anonymous 22 December 17 15:40

I once did a week of circa 120 chargeable on a completion and it killed me for the next 3 days.

3 months of those hours would see you hospitalised.

Anonymous 22 December 17 16:14

Speaking as a MC associate - I know that a 70 billable hour weeks hurts bad (you will be sleep deprived and have worked weekends to acheive that). 100 hours would get you time in lieu as you would have to literally pull a few all nighters to hit that.

No way you are doing 120+ hours for 3 months straight. It happens like for a week once a quarter at best (if shit goes tits up). The 70ish hours weeks are more common and bad enough without the exaggeration

Roll On Friday 22 December 17 16:43

Perhaps he or she meant working 123 hours a week as opposed to actually billing. 17 hours a day is common in IBanking and at some M&A departments... That said I doubt anyone could do 17hours a day for 3 months straight without a day off?

Anonymous 23 December 17 09:05

Fraud is rife in the Professional Services industry. Targets and a desire for promotion drives dishonest behavior.
Most of you are “at it”.

Anonymous 28 December 17 10:25

Partners at Linklaters should care more about their employees. They should have a policy for extra-vacations after completion. W/o such policies MC firms are just modern slavery companies.

Anonymous 28 December 17 20:45

If one of my team did 123 hours in a week I would check their time sheet.

Should it happen for a second week I would call them in and have a frank discussion.

It would not reach 3 months. I would have fired them for time dumping by then.

Anonymous 02 January 18 01:18

Averaging 123 a week for three months is implausible (and I'd say impossible) because it implies some weeks were more than that (because some were less than that).

I've seen people do a couple of weeks at around 100-110 and it broke them. And thats every weekend all weekend and midnight or later finishes through the week because of the inevitable non chargeable time as well.

Anonymous 02 January 18 22:45

Knowing the system, this person almost certainly meant to say they were working 3 months at an average of 12.3 billable hours per working day (i.e. averaging 61.5 billable hours per week). Much more plausible but still not particularly pleasant long term. Otherwise see above...