Mills & Reeve is the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2019.
Last year's joint winner, Bristol-based Osborne Clarke, came second. City IP practice Bristows broke the regional firms' grip on the medals, taking third.
Over 5,000 people working in law firms rated their gaff on pay, career development, work/life balance, culture and management. And on the loos and snacks, although those two categories were (scandalously) given a lower weighting in the results.
Mills & Reeve staff chimed in to give the firm the top spot for the second year running, after it was forced to share the crown last year with OC and Burges Salmon.
"We are paid less than other firms", said a junior solicitor, "but that is weighed up with the work/life balance and the nice environment". That trade-off was a big factor. "We are also encouraged to take holidays without having access to emails so that we can benefit from an actual break", said a senior solicitor. "When I talk to people from other firms and hear what they have to put up with I shudder". A senior solicitor with a young family said there was "no tutting when you leave at 5". "I can think of quite a few people who work part time", said a junior solicitor, "but nevertheless appear to be on the track to partnership".
And the pay isn't even bad. "On a regional basis it is higher than a lot of competitors", said a non-fee-earner. Though, said a senior solicitor, "the rocketing expense of living in or near Cambridge makes life a bit tougher for denizens of that office".
The greatest award in law.
"At the risk of sounding smug", said a junior, "I now work fewer hours than I did at a much smaller regional firm, but I'm doing City quality work, being paid a lot more, and the ceilings don't leak when it rains".
Management was praised to the skies. The top bods were "visible, warm and look to involve all staff", said one lawyer. "Claire and Justin are doing a great job", said another.
The culture "lives up to the hype at M&R", said a solicitor. M&R "has always been a friendly firm", said another senior lawyer, "and that hasn't changed with growth (which was always the worry)". There are a couple of issues. Pay in the Cambridge office is one. Plumbing in Cambridge is another. Despite a refurb, "the entire contents of the building toilets occasionally gets emptied into the ceiling of the ground floor training room". As for what would make staff leave: "Nothing", said a trainee. "I wish I could stay forever!" Gulp.
Claire Clarke, Managing Partner of Mills & Reeve, said, “We are absolutely delighted to once again be named as RollOnFriday Firm of the Year and there’s been lots of air punching, and even some high fives when we heard the news!"
"We are very proud of our culture at Mills & Reeve and believe that if we treat people well that will lead to excellent results across the board. Supporting and challenging our people is a core part of our strategy."
"We like to see Mills & Reeve as a non-hierarchical firm and a great example of that was how we involved so many people across the firm, from lawyers to business services, in shaping our strategy. It’s also the case that little things matter to people and I make sure I meet every new starter to find out why they have joined, how things are going and what they want to achieve. Given this result I also now need to check whether they are chocolate digestive or custard cream fans!”
Well done to M&R.
Osborne Clarke, which has for several years been voted one of the happiest firms in the UK, lost out by just two percentage points this year. Its 84% was still an exceptional score.
A large number of staff wrote in, and they were overwhelmingly positive. Pay wasn't the highest in the UK, but "still hefty and we do get a life outside work", said a solicitor. "I'd rather be here, working alongside fun people for ace clients and getting home at a decent time, than working all hours for more money", said another. It's great, she added, "to be able to live and work in Bristol - 10 minute commute home, weekends in Devon and Cornwall, etc. - and work sensible hours, but still get City-quality work".
Many had praise for OC's top brass. "Genuinely excellent", said a junior lawyer. "It is great how transparent the management team are with us all... I also really like Ray [Berg, the Managing Partner]'s emphasis on diversity and wellbeing (walking the walk, as well as talking the talk!)".
"I would not want to be at any other city firm", said a junior. Osborne Clarke "is full of people who have moved from US and Magic Circle firms who are all now genuinely happy and enjoying their work, even at our busiest people remain good humoured. I haven't encountered any psychopaths yet".
Many attested to what one junior solicitor called a "very special culture" in which they "genuinely feel valued". Plus, the firm "has listened to previous ROF survey feedback and is refurbishing the loos!" Glad to have made a difference.
Ray Berg said, "When it comes to the things that the RoF survey measures the only voices that really carry weight are our people’s so it’s great that they’ve given us such amazing feedback. This fantastic result shows that our people enjoy coming to work and for me and the rest of the leadership team that’s up there with financial performance as a measure of business success. Hopefully the changes we are making this year will make working at Osborne Clarke even more enjoyable so roll on 2020!"