The RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2018 is Osborne Clarke. And Burges Salmon. And Mills & Reeve.

All three firms tied with an overall score of 83%.

It is a long-awaited triumph for Osborne Clarke, which came second last year by just 1%. In a West Country double-whammy, Burges Salmon took the crown for a stunning third year in a row. It came joint-first with Shearman & Sterling in 2016 and won last year with 82%.

Another regional firm, Mills & Reeve, filled out the trifecta of champions on only its second appearance in the survey.

The winning firms share many attributes. All are regional, and staff at all three painted a similar picture of a friendly culture which did not sacrifice work/life balance despite the high calibre of work. The small amount of grumbling was directed at predominantly the same issues, too, namely the drawbacks of regional pay and fears that the precious culture and work/life balance could be eroded. 

At Osborne Clarke, "It's not one thing" that makes the firm so good, said a senior solicitor. There is the "relaxed and inclusive culture, quality of work, openness of management, clear career development path, flexibility in working, support of life outside of work", and "the personalities".  One solicitor said she "genuinely would never move to another law firm", because "I have never come across anywhere that beats OC across the board as a place to work". In fact she would only leave "if it closed".

Hundreds of her peers expressed similar sentiments. When hard graft was required, "it is recognised", said a junior lawyer, with "thank you emails from the head of the practice group, time off in lieu, etc". She said, "I cannot gush more about the great culture at OC. I was previously at a huge firm, and everyone in every team was miserable". Minor gripes aside, "people at OC are genuinely happy". Plus "being a dick is frowned upon", whether "you are a partner, fee-earner or client".

"As an ex-Magic Circle-er", said another Osborne Clarke lawyer, "I am, for the first time in 8 years, genuinely excited about coming to work every day!"

The firm was "very forward thinking in terms of flexible working", said one senior solicitor. "As a working mother", she said, that was "invaluable". Others agreed. The firm "as a whole pulls together to make this work", said a mum, "with co-workers (including partners) being very understanding and respectful of the demands of the parental juggling act". But pity secondees to the firm. One said her experience was "so good" that "I don't want to leave".

    "Don't make me go, it's only 5.30pm." 

Osborne Clarke Managing Partner Ray Berg said, "I haven't been this excited since Spurs won the FA Cup! We've come close to winning in previous years and following the feedback last year, we were determined to make changes, so it's great that we've finally come out on top. Our culture is so important to us and RollOnFriday's survey is an outstanding endorsement that what we are doing is really making a difference to our people. Thanks to everyone who took part". 

Burges Salmon is an old hand at making its people very happy. "Top quality clients, work, colleagues and environment - what's not to like?" summed up a senior solicitor. "Colleagues. Every time", said a Burges Salmon junior solicitor. "But also those moments of quiet smugness when we win some work from City firms who continue to underestimate us as serious competition".

Burges Salmon "is as friendly as it claims to be", said a trainee. "The open door policy is pervasive". And the old marketing slogan, 'Salmon, not sardines', "is apt" said a senior solicitor. "Here you have all the benefits of London work", whilst "being able to work (and play) in a great city with the countryside on your doorstep".

"I took about a 30% pay cut to move here from a City firm", said a junior emigree, "but consider that excellent value for the improved work-life balance and the chance to live somewhere you don't need to be an oligarch to buy a small flat". A senior solicitor said, "I occasionally weep inside when reading about the hefty pay increases being offered at various Magic Circle and US firms". But "ultimately I value having a life outside of the office and being able to maintain personal relationships more than an extra 50k - 100k a year".

Peter Morris, Burges Salmon Managing Partner, said, “I am absolutely delighted that our people are so positive about our firm. We know that there is always more that we can do to ensure that Burges Salmon is a great place to work.  We work hard to maintain an open and inclusive culture to which everyone can contribute. It’s great way to end my eight years as Managing Partner and I look forward to handing over the reins to my successor, Roger Bull, to continue our quest to make Burges Salmon the best firm we can for all our people”.

As for Mills & Reeve,"It's a people firm", said a senior solicitor. Led by Managing Partner Claire Clarke, "It doesn't put profit above happiness, which ironically is what makes it successful". In fact, said a colleague, so much effort is put into maintaining a friendly culture "that it's almost embarrassing when I talk to friends about their lives at other firms". He said, "I can count the number of arseholes in the firm on a single hand and without using my thumb".

Like Osborne Clarke and Burges Salmon, M&R was praised for something quite simple: being pleasant. No-one, said a lawyer, "bats an eyelid if you need to work from home, or leave slightly early to get to the kids' nativity". It means, she added, "I also don't get the anxious, stressed feeling I used to get in the City if I had to call in sick". One issue though, was raised by a colleague: "Poor choice of firm Christmas card this year". Management "dressed as elves...looked like they had been let out for the day".

Clarke said, “It’s fair to say that we’re absolutely thrilled to have been named RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2018! We felt coming joint fourth last year was a great achievement but this is something else entirely. We really do value our people at Mills & Reeve".

Congratulations to all three firms. For the gory end of the table, check out the Golden Turd 2018. Full results will be published next Friday.
Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 26 January 18 11:20

Partners at DACB are happy
Average pre-tax profit per member – which DAC has confirmed is equal to profit per equity partner – saw a 20 per cent rise, growing from £361,000 to £432,000, while pre-tax profit grew 10 per cent from £35.3m to £38.9m for the 2016/17 financial year