Taking the temperature of the law firm nation.
The results of the most comprehensive survey of law firm satisfaction are in.
Over 8,000 people in private practice rated how happy they were with their firm, determining which are the best (and worst) firms to work at in 2022.
Burges Salmon took the top spot out of the 61 firms which made the cut. Its people's scores revealed that the Bristol-based firm has the happiest workforce in 2022, with the majority of respondents declaring themselves to be very satisfied.
The Burges Salmon balance may not be for everyone, however. Those who prefer masses of cash and less sleep may have more in common with the silver medallist, US firm Sidley Austin.
Travers Smith is top of the City's UK firms, placing third.
Several regional firms did excellently. Osborne Clarke and TLT, both based in Bristol, share 4th place with national firm Mills & Reeve.
The top 10 RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2022 is rounded out by Birmingham-headquartered Clarke Willmott in 7th place, national firm DAC Beachcroft in 8th, and City firm Trowers & Hamlins in 9th, alongside US giant Latham & Watkins.
US firms are well-represented at the top of the table. White & Case, Ropes & Gray and Shearman & Sterling all placed 11th, with another US firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, sharing the 14th spot with corporate City powerhouse Macfarlanes.
Of the Magic Circle, Freshfields is the happiest, in 30th place, followed by Clifford Chance in 34th, Linklaters in 44th and Allen & Overy in 47th. In a shock drop, Slaughter and May appeared in 59th place alongside transport and shipping specialist Watson Farley & Williams, only just avoiding the bottom spot.
Knights PLC came last, giving the northern firm the dubious distinction of being the Golden Turd 2022.
In the RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2022 survey, respondents picked whether they were 'very satisfied', 'satisfied', 'neutral', 'dissatisfied', or 'very dissatisfied' with each of five metrics: their pay, career development, work/life balance, the culture, and management.
Anyone working in the firm, from a partner to a PA to the IT Team to a paralegal, was entitled to enter.
Their selections were converted into a percentage (100%, 75%, 50%, 25% and 0%, respectively), and added to their colleagues' marks to determine an overall score for each category and for their firm as a whole.
The results also show who exactly is happy, and with what.
Within the average law firm, partners are the most satisfied, followed by non-lawyers and trainees. Junior and senior solicitors represent a squeezed middle who are less likely to be as jolly, and paralegals are odds-on the most miserable in the building.
The survey shows that people working in private practice are, overall, the most satisfied with their firm's culture, and the least satisfied with their pay.
RollOnFriday will reveal the Best Law Firms for Pay, Work/Life Balance, Culture, Career Development, and Management in the next few editions, beginning next week with pay, plus a closer look at what's going on inside the Magic Circle.
Thanks to the thousands of people who took part and provided an indispensable guide to where's hot and where's not, and for terrifying managing partners and HR teams in the process.
Well done Burges Salmon!
Shame on you Knights and anyone who claims the results are invalid.
I reckon DWF will have ranked so badly because of its ‘no promotions’ policy. Snige needs to sort that out.
Newsflash - there was a deliberate push to inflate our score by getting people to post false positive reviews.
Sadly @08:08 is correct. An attempt to distort the survey has made us higher than we should be, to drown out the incidents of racism and bullying that the firm does not want anyone to know about.
This polling needs some thought. How are the rankings decided? Just on numbers of votes, or is it averaged out based on numbers of people at each firm? I imagine lots of stressed out lawyers at some firms in the middle of major cases are hardly going to take the time to fill in this questionnaire. There should be a column confirming numbers of responses.
RoF showing their strong grasp of the legal market by describing WFW as an "insurance firm". Have they confused it Willis Trowers Watson the insurance brokers? Last I checked WFW liked things that floated or flew.
WTAF? Slaughters below Plexus and S&G?
WFW - great progress. Hats off to management.
WBD’s HR department out in force for this year’s poll I see. Remarkable recovery after last year’s shit show.
@ Anonymous 21 January 22 08:56
It is quite possible the WFW has become an insurance powerhouse; the managing partners were always banging on about “services into sector” and “going to market” but keeping everyone in the dark about specific strategy so it’s possible that insurance is now their thing because no one understood what they were going on about and possibly neither did they.
And finally the nonentity that is BCLP makes an appearance. Presumably at the bottom end because of the shambles that is the takeover by Bryan Cave … sorry merger. Or perhaps the biblical level of departures over the last 12 months.
Where is Keystone this year? Last year they were champions, this year they are not even on the list?
@Buck Toothed Berryl 21 January 22 07:59 - It's not so much a "no promotions policy" as it's a "no pay rises on promotion" policy
No Stephenson Harwood on the list?!?
WFW is an asset finance firm (shipping and aviation). It has a couple of marine insurance partners as a bolt on to it's shipping offering.
It’s very sad to see anonymous trolls criticising FBD. There is genuinely no firm on this planet that I’d rather be at.
were taken by the cops
Who or what is "FBD"?
Remarkable as always.
I've never met anyone at Mishcons who had anything nice to say about the place. But apparently they're all the exception to the rule.
Thank goodness for reliable scientific surveying is all I can say. Without it I could have laboured under the misaprehension that the place was a miserable poophole forever.
Anon 21 January 22 09:17
Biblical levels of departures at BCLP is putting it mildly, they must have lost over half of their corporate and real estate finance associates during the last year, not to mention the shambles of what has happened in the restructuring team. But then maybe that was plan of “Project Advance” all along!
Surprised Weightmans in the 30s with process obsessed, [...]
MP and board of yes MEN
"Surprised Weightmans in the 30s with process obsessed, [...]
MP and board of yes MEN"
I appreciate that it's a Friday, but it's still a bit early to start on the drinks isn't it?
Apologies if it's just your speech-to-type programme playing up.
Is OC a regional firm? It's headquarters have been in the City for years and London is its largest office.
RoF there's a difference between being happy (what you've reported) and being satisfied (what you've asked). Rarely am I very satisfied, but occasionally am very happy. Though it's a league table so who cares - i'll shut up now.
OC is national firm with a large London office. Contrast, for example, Shoosmiths which has a tiny London presence - effectively a brass plate office (and is therefore a provincial firm).
Not only was Knights bottom but it looks like it wasn't even a close-run thing for the Golden Turd this year. But I don't suppose the board will even give a shiny sh*t about this survey result so long as it doesn't affect the share price.
What's the point in you asking staff to contribute if you don't publish that part?!
Wombles got 31% last year, 8% worse than Knights plc.
Yet this year they’re on 62%. It just goes to show that things can improve.
Debevoise is every bit the fetid gulag it was last year, the year before, and the year before that. This year they've pushed in multiple entries to avoid a repeat of last year's less than stellar coverage.
Sad to see where Slaughters have ranked, but not surprised. Non-existent work/life for the most part, toxic culture (almost 100% caused by a majority of the partners - some partners I have worked are genuinely very nice but are by far the exception to the rule), work is relatively boring if you're a junior (unless you're in an understaffed specialist department) and their attitude for working from home has been disgusting (I have witnessed first hand people getting jucier work because they tend to work in the office - with those working from home, or expressing their preference to do so getting tedious and menial work).
Sadly, they will never sort it out, the partnership really is toxic.
How do Foot Anstey always avoid this list?
Yup. Some right psychopaths in the partnership, and they keep making up other psychopaths. They really need to sort out the partner promotions process so that they survey associates who worked with Person X about what they think of Person X (a peer review if you will) before they make that person up. [...]
TBH I was expecting us to be the Golden Turd this year. But perhaps we were saved by the massive exodus of associates across the board (they presumably didn't survey but voted with their feet). And no doubt the HR and business services team were out in force pumping up fake responses to the survey. I wonder whether they sent the email out to trainees and juniors which they used to send to encourage positive responses to the survey.
How is Travers third? Three partners gone, one partner signed off, and about half the corporate associates gone. Everyone across the transactional teams working insane hours and hugely understaffed but we can’t recruit because the pay is so dismal, yet we find the money to add more and more to business services. The disputes team has one real case on that results in burnout but the other half of the team do next to nothing. So many friends have been signed off now but it’s ok because we get a subscription to a meditation app.
Any reason insiders can say why NRF is so far down the list?
“Within the average law firm, partners are the most satisfied”
No shit lol
Latham and Shearman always seem to do well in these surveys. Must admit they seem to offer something much more appealing than large UK firms which are equally demanding. Good range of practice areas, decently sized, better pay. Sidley surprisingly high too.
Keystone absent as "not comparing apples with apples" apparently to include the happiness of new model consultancy-style firms with independent partners vs traditional firms...
Not surprised that Slaughters has ranked near the bottom. I trained/ qualified there and it nearly ruined my mental health... they need to sort it out, lest the mass exoduses continue.
OC is an international firm based in London - please don't put it in the same category as Poosmiths
15.42, that’s exactly right. Keystone and other consultancy style firms were eliminated from the result count even though they were listed in the survey application. Pity RoF didn’t see fit to make the point in their write up.
Ex-Knights Plc employee and not at all surprised. Crappy company!
@13.30 that's an astute summary re travers. The firm is filled with very nice people saying how nice it is to be at travers, notwithstanding they are slammed and on good but not great pay (while, as you say, some people sit on their hands). It reminds me of a cult.
I trust the Roll on Friday Survey far more than any other source of information about the profession.
For example Browne Jacobson always pop up on the best firms to work for lists, but not here.
Always disappointed when I read the letters "ASH" only to find that the remaining letters show that it is not my shop, and my shop has, once again, failed to get ranked.
I used to think it was the true hallmark of a bronze medallion firm to fail to make the ratings, but see that many bronze medallion firms have been ranked, and many above that have failed to show. How many responses are required to get ranked?
My firm is very restrictive about promoting people to partner so I’m intrigued to see next week’s news stories.
Total non surprise here at WFW's ranking. Wonder what happened to the culture committee etc..haha. Easily the most unpleasant place I have ever worked, including my time working in a police station. just saying.
Slaughter and May ranking 3rd from bottom proves the following:
1. Money is irrelevant. S&M lawyers earn a fortune. Seriously. They just don’t appreciate it as a person down the road earns more so they feel pissed off
2. Lawyers rarely move for quality of life. If they did no-one would work at a City firm, ever. How can so many people who earn so much be so unhappy (see1, above) ?
3. People are generally unhappy below the age of 40 when the start to realise what’s really important to them. Genuine point. I bet 80% of S&M responses were from people under 40 hoping that kicking their own firm leads to a pay rise. I know I’m right.
4. Too many lawyers are unhappy but moan instead of DOING SOMETHING ABOUT IT!
5. S&M Managers/Partners are busy, so they don’t have time to pad their votes like some firms obviously do 😉
DACB in the top 10! Good one.
Great effort marketing team. 👏🏻
So HR's request to the firm for some positive comments saves Kennedys' again!
What happened in BCLP’s restructuring team?
I wish I was somewhere else at 21:27, I totally agree - how Kennedys is at the position it is I do not know, another shit show. Lateral partner hires have destablished teams and associates leaving in the non insurance team! Toxic culture from the top!
Anon 21 January 22 09:17 and Anon 21 January 22 10:13 - what is happening with the RE teams at BCLP? Has that been affected by that Project Advance?
DWF has lost 32 partners since the start of last year. It hasn’t promoted any partners since then, but made a lot of lateral hires. If it continues this way then it may win the golden turd in 2023.
I'm a national firm. With my van I can go wherever I want.
And sometimes I park up in cities so I'm a City firm too.
I vote me the winner.
And may I say "Well Done".
Thank you very much.
How do all the high scores for the US firms compute with the multiple stories of toxic environments, bullying and resignations?
Is there a heavy weighting for salary?
Not surprised Travers rated so high, they just fire anyone who doesn't fully embrace the very "special and unique" culture there. Only the brainwashed voted...
@anonymous 21 January 22 13:11 - why would HR and business services pump up fake responses to the survey? Almost certainly they think they are underpaid and pretty much treated like second class citizens Partners, no incentive for them to write fake positive responses; I'd think they're more likely to fake negative responses.
I hated my time at DWF.
Irwins seem to be making good ground
BCLP? No one cares. It’s on no one’s radar. The overseas offices have been largely abandoned and the London office is no more that a mediocre real estate outpost of a mediocre Midwest firm. As for Project Advance, did any partner have the balls to ask “Advance to what?”. As an SA it feels like an advance to early onset dementia.
Is RollOnFriday well known among students? With the rather devastating reviews presented here I cannot understand why anyone would join the galley slaves in the unhappy ships at the bottom.
Norton rose - pretty terrible result but I guess that what comes from deliberately underpaying the market by around 20% and expecting teams to work with a gearing of one to one. Record profits too by all accounts….will be trickier to match those going forward with no one to do the work.
@Anon 21 January 22 13:30 - Not really sure how much credibility to give the opinion of anyone who calls what Travers pay lawyers "dismal"; don't NQs start on £100k? Wow, try having that conversation in a room full of nurses...
Congratulations to the S&G marketing and HR teams!
Norton Rose deserves the bottom spot. The office has a toxic culture, promoting little incentive towards advancement and crushing ambition. Associates are underpaid, overworked and frankly silly for staying.
I’m surprised s&g are not bottom. They lost 90% of their department heads this year and staff turnover is higher than their debt
Knights seems to have the biggest revolving door in the profession. Leeds is full of people who tried it and got out of there as quickly as they could.
I’ve yet to hear anybody say anything positive about the place.
I am the original Irwin Snitchell title giver. Makes me sad watching others claim it.
Late to the game but reminder that this survey doesn’t actually measure how great a firm is to work at. More accurately it measures the width of the gap between the specific expectations of people working at a firm vs what said firm actually provides.
Some US firms rank so high despite working people like chattel because those that work there fully expect to work like chattel but enjoy the ridiculous salaries. Meanwhile the MC market themselves as paying well and having a nice culture but actually do neither.
There are quite a few new model law firms like Keystone, Gunner Cooke, Tenple Bright. They are no less law firms simply because lawyers provide their services through a consultancy arrangent - and what firm doesn't have any consultants? They should definitely be in the list.
@12:54 - In fairness, HR and 'Business Services' people are second class citizens at the law firms at which they are employed.
They don't make any money, aren't eligible to become partners, and are present there to make the lives of fee earners easier (by way of doing low value administrative work that would be a poor use of fee earner time).
It's always a bit of a mystery to me why there are so many comments here which seem to suggest that their second class status is somehow unfair or untoward. It's just a simple description of reality. There's no need to take it so personally.
For a good analogy, the dressing room attendant at Real Madrid probably feels a bit like a second class citizen too. But imagining him having equal status to one of the actual players (who scores the goals and who people turn up to see) would clearly be absurd.
@11:32 Imagine being a fee-earner and comparing yourself to a Real Madrid footballer. But to continue your very poor analogy, what about the manager, the coaching staff, the chairman/CEO...you absolute muppet.
I joined WFW during Covid having worked at 2 other firms. I am honestly surprised by the ranking and comments like 21 January @ 20:01.
I have been working with really great colleagues and genuinely like partners in my team.
but then again speaking to other associates I haven’t found one who filled in the survey ?!
I’m a fee earner and get compared to Massimo Taibi almost daily.
DWF makes you pay back LPC fees if you leave before 2 PQE and that says everything you need to know about the firm
Genuine question: why shouldn’t a firm make you pay back LPC fees if you leave?
Presumably you knew this at the time you took the money?
Should Uber be in the running to win Restaurant of the Year?
That’s the logic of those arguing that consultancy models such as Keystone, Gunner Cooke, Tenple Bright ought to be ranked. They are a different beast and should be treated as such.
A decade in the legal field yet Norton Rose London scarred me so bad that I shall never return. Toxic beyond belief and a whole bandwagon of enablers. For those who do not enable, they sit around with popcorn in their laps. It's been two years and looking back still makes me vomit in my mouth.
Don’t see the problem at Travers. It’s hardly “cult like” to think it’s probably more than okay to be paid well into six figures to work on reasonably interesting matters with people I like? It’s not some toxic place that claims to be a family, but I generally wouldn’t mind sharing an office with anybody in my team, there are a few people I consider real friends and happily see outside of work but nobody’s bothered if you’re someone who likes to keep your social life separate from work. Yeah sometimes the hours are long but it’s hardly like a US firm and the pay reflects that. It’s a pleasant all rounder, where you won’t get the biggest or best of anything, but you’re also never getting the worst. Go get beasted somewhere that pays you double if that’s your priority but the people who constantly complain seem to think that these salaries come with any job when it’s an unimaginable sum to most people.
"to continue your very poor analogy, what about the manager, the coaching staff, the chairman/CEO..."
Well, just like everyone in the roles you mentioned, support staff tend to get regularly canned at short notice, are uninteresting to the fans, and are invariably for the chop whenever there is a mild downturn in the organisation's annual performance.
Ranieri and my most recent secretary's recent employment experience is essentially identical.
Which I think just goes to show how marvellous my original analogy* was.
Just one of the many reasons that I get paid the big bucks, I suppose.
*It is a metaphor for my intellect.
You are everything that is wrong with the industry. If a law firm was a sausage factory, you would be a sausage. Sausages don’t run the factory, they are the product.
To cut short a long winded justification of why I’m correct, I would simply point out that the only type of business in the world run by lawyers is a law firm. In the real world, every other business recognises diversity of thought and skill and chooses not to fill the Boardroom with a bunch of insecure overachievers.
You are everything that is wrong with the industry."
There was no 11:52 on the 24th of January.
Your lack of attention to detail is a damning indictment of everything wrong with the generation of ADD afflicted Instagram poseurs that self-describes as the next generation of this profession.
You will learn soon enough that your elders did in fact know best.
"If a law firm was a sausage factory, you would be a sausage. "
This is a far worse analogy than the International Football Club one.
If law firms were sausage factories, then lawyers would be highly valued Sausage Production Technicians. The most successful of their number would be promoted to Vice President of Sausage Production and Seasoning.
To continue that analogy further, notes of advice would be bratwurst, high-value litigation would be Cumberland-rings, and emails would be chipolatas.
Support staff would, as they do in their current roles, perform menial tasks to keep the Sausage Production Staff happy. Thereby allowing them to focus their efforts on the optimal production of high-quality sausages.
For example, Cleaners would swab the floors of offal residue, Document Production Staff would perhaps do the repetitive and brainless task of wrapping links in environmentally friendly packaging, and Marketing Staff would wiggle around in little pencil skirts while honking on about Instagram engagement as if it mattered and/or anyone gave a toss.
Now, if you will excuse me, I have a sausage for you right here.
@16:05 He'd be a sausage whatever the scenario.
@ Anonymous 25 January 22 17:57 Love the way you grab hold of the mistake about the @time whilst wilfully ignoring the very valid point that lawyers do run normal business. Mr Loophole strikes again…
Everyone knows fee earners are nothing more than gloried copy and paste document generation monkeys. Thankfully lawyers in most mid sized law firms will be replaced by me soon, AI.
And if you dont buy that or don't believe it.... like the old guy with the odd second class citizen comment (who no doubt loves the power of being a high class low level associate with silver spoon mummy and daddy issues.....who i bet still time records in a paper journal and hands it to a PA to enter into a system.)
Then fine but just think about what happens if your IT goes down for an hour. How productive are you then without the second class citizens ?
Got a TC offer from WFW, is it as bad as RoF are making it out to be? Should I hold out for elsewhere?
"just think about what happens if your IT goes down for an hour. How productive are you then without the second class citizens ?"
You are right of course...
Without the Marketing Blondes to fill the hour with I would have very little to distract and entertain me during that long dark twilight of the time-recording system.
They don't add much value, but during those tedious and unproductive hours they're worth their weight in gold.
In fairness, there's no fat ones so they don't actually weight that much.
@ Anonymous 26 January 22 16:41
Take it. A change of management has been announced which will improve the place a lot.