Mills & Reeve is the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year for a stunning third time in a row.
It topped the table again with 87% after its staff overwhelmingly said they were satisfied or very satisfied at the national firm.
"The culture at M&R is amazing", said its solicitors. "It's collegiate, supportive and just plain friendly."
It doesn't pay the most, but that didn't mean staff were dissatisfied with their salaries. "I won't retire in my 30s", said a senior solicitor, "but it's a pretty fair wage".
Because, while they weren't paid biglaw money, they weren't pulling biglaw hours either. "I don't feel like I work exceptionally hard and I particularly enjoy meeting my friend who works over the road at BCLP for drinks", said a solicitor. "Usually when we meet, I'm already pissed having got out of the office a good 3 to 4 hours earlier, and they're knackered".
"Yes they have more cash, but I at least have time to spend the lesser amount of cash that I have", they added.
Staff praised management, summarised by one partner as "the velvet glove of Justin [Ripman, Senior Partner] and the iron fist of Claire [Clarke, Managing Partner]".
As for the grub, "We have an award-winning chef, whose lunchtime creations are fabulous", said a senior solicitor, "- only downside is that we're not set up for custard".
Informed of the victory this week, Managing Partner Claire Clarke said, “Wow, what great news to cheer up a grey January day! I’ve heard lots of ‘whoop whoops’ walking around the office today! It’s fantastic to hear as Managing Partner that lots of Mills & Reeve people took the time to take part and say such positive things about the firm".
“Our 2020 strategy is about to be brought to a very successful conclusion with many of our targets achieved ahead of schedule", she said. "But for me, and this is borne out by awards such as this, the most important factors driving all this success are our people and our culture that flows through everything we do. I wait with bated breath to see the detailed comments and feedback!”
The triple crown.
US firm Shearman & Sterling came second with a fantastic 84%.
Shearman & Sterling offered "all the considerable benefits" of a "stellar NY firm in London", but "with an actually pleasant culture", said a partner. "It feels a bit like the firm is primarily for people who are happy not to be paid top whack like Kirkland", said a solicitor, "in exchange for not being worked to death like Kirkland".
Its lawyers said they received "just the right balance of screamingly large levels of responsibility and a environment which tolerates screams for rescue".
SS has even been making inroads into healthy working, albeit in US firm style. "They placed an apple on our desk the other day to promote our wellbeing, which was rogue", said one solicitor. "Not sure a Golden Delicious can make up for passing out from exhaustion, but the thought was very nice".
A colleague said the only thing which would make him leave the firm was "Corbyn, in which case I'd become a vagabond poet".
Osborne Clarke came third by a whisker with 83%. The Bristol-based powerhouse is a frequent Firm of the Year winner or runner-up.
OC was "unbelievably supportive and inclusive", said a senior solicitor, and put a "huge focus on wellbeing". That translated into a work/life balance which allowed lawyers to "make it home for bath time with the little one most nights".
Although some couldn't get enough of their work. "I always enjoy going back to the office", said a junior lawyer. "I very rarely stay late and am rarely, if ever, disturbed at the weekend", said another solicitor. "But I'm a bit of a sadist and would prefer the odd late night here and there".
"The firm looks after it's humans first and its profit second", suggested a partner. "The people sense this and as a result go the extra mile for the firm which inevitably results in better profit. It's a virtuous circle, but the order is important because it protects the culture".
"I'd also like to note that the trainee intakes seem to have been consistently diverse over the past few recruitment cycles", said a trainee. "I'm particularly glad to see that the intake isn't solely made up of signet ring wankers who attended Oxbridge, unlike many US firms..."
Spare a thought, though, for the fellow in Reading wondering what all the fuss was about. "I receive a lot of emails about 'yoga' 'boot camp', 'the new canteen', 'the new refurb', 'mindfulness' etc", he said. "I'm yet to receive any emails about any of the above taking place in Reading. Bristol must be a fucking Zen salon by now".