foty bottom

'Gentlemen. How did we get here?'

A year of disruption has tested the ability and willingness of firms to keep their people happy. The results of the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2021 results, released today, show which firms have come up with a miracle vaccine, and which are wandering around with a mask over their eyes.

RollOnFriday's annual poll doesn't care how many FTSE clients a firm has, or the numbers of star partners it lured from Brag & Spindle LLP. As befits the online home of the legal community, it cares about how happy a firm's people have been over the last 12 months.

Keystone Law has been crowned RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2021. Built on principles of remote working, keep-what-you-kill and work-when-you-like, its unorthodox structure appeared designed for a Covid-afflicted landscape.

In which case, perhaps even more credit should be given to the traditional, bricks and mortar firms which somehow managed to keep their people delighted amongst so much upheaval. Top of that heap are Shearman & Sterling, Ropes & Gray, DAC Beachcroft and RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2020 (and 2019 (and 2018)) Mills & Reeve, which all came joint second with barnstorming 88% scores - higher than the highest mark from last year.

Their outstanding showing will be examined in the coming weeks, along with the performances of all the other firms in the survey, some of whom did not fare quite so well. Slater and Gordon achieved the lowest ranking and is duly anointed the Golden Turd (for the second year in a row). Check for your firm in the overall rankings:


foty 2021 overall scores

54 firms made the threshold this year, backed by responses from over 5,000 lawyers and business services staff who graded their satisfaction with their pay, their career development, their work/life balance, and with their firm's management, its culture, and its response to Covid-19.

For each of the six categories, respondents picked whether they were 'very satisfied', 'satisfied', 'neutral', 'dissatisfied' or 'very dissatisfied'. RollOnFriday converted each selection into a percentage (100%, 75%, 50%, 25% and 0% respectively), crunched the numbers and panicked when a toddler ran into the room and turned the computer off at the plug.

Reflecting a population gone stir-crazy in lockdown, the results are more polarised than the previous year, when Covid was just a tingling feeling between a pangolin and a bat. Staff at just three firms scored under 50% in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2020 survey, compared to ten firms this year, including two Magic Circle firms. Conversely, 23 firms registered scores of 75% or higher in this year's survey, compared to 17 firms the year before.

But readers will be reassured to learn that the overall satisfaction of different bands has remained largely unchanged, with partners pleased as punch at the top, and junior solicitors grousing at the bottom.

foty 21 staff bands

Thanks to everyone who took part in the survey. Find out next Friday where lawyers are happiest with their pay. In the meantime, check out the happiest firm and the unhappiest firm of the year.

Tip Off ROF


A collection of steaming turds 29 January 21 08:22

Nobody can be surprised by the firms at the bottom of the pile.  There are lots of stories about what horrendous places they are to work.  

Anonymous 29 January 21 09:12

The only comfort I can take from this is thay by this time next year, BLM won't even be on the list. Consider this your final victory over RoF.

MightBeShooty,MightNot 29 January 21 09:33

How can anyone take a firm seriously if they voluntarily have the word "Womble" in their name? Madness.

Fee Earner 29 January 21 09:53

Nice to see SPB bobbing neatly close to the bowl in 44th place.

I’m quite surprised actually: given that outrageous stunt management pulled on staff with its tightwad refusal to true up the pay cuts (especially after US offices promptly did in time for Santa) I thought SPB might be a serious contender for the ultimate golden prize.

Anon 29 January 21 09:56

I think Freshfields did badly last year as well. Some of those I know who’ve been there were bullied pretty badly.

Legal Profession Spokesman 29 January 21 09:59

💩 Golden Turd - Slater & Gordon

💩 Silver Turd - Womble Bond Dickinson (aka Dickie Dees)

💩 Bronze Turd - Dentons

Whether golden, silver or bronze it’s still a turd. Take the turd on the chin (ewww) and up your game. 


Anonymous 29 January 21 10:00


I'm intrigued about your views on shoosmiths?

Surely the feedback suggests you're wrong?

Neutral Observer 29 January 21 11:09

Interesting ranking. However, unless you publish the number of participants per firm, this ranking is redundant. Don’t fool your readers!

MightBeShooty,MightNot 29 January 21 11:09

Anon user 09:25

Interesting that Weightmans never appears 


Apparently not that interesting, with no thumbs either way after 90 minutes  ;)

olddickie 29 January 21 11:55

not surprised to see the Wombles at bottom of pile. Dickie Dees was Golden Turd when the last big test of credit crunch came for management. Brought out the very worse. This covid test brought out very worse in this management team. Both chair and MP are stepping down but may be too little too late. Dickie Dees and Bond Pearce were good firms to work for in our own ways. Wombles is not, no matter how much management like to instruct us otherwise 

the real Donald 29 January 21 12:14

although the above picture appears to show the marvellous super transatlantic world power of Womble BD as runner up for turd we take happiness  very seriously and we can tell you we are a super happy place to work. Storm the offices of ROF now. 

Anonymous 29 January 21 12:30

Don't understand why job satisfaction is so low at Black Lives Matter?

It's a new, dynamic organisation with a strong set of shared values (i.e. bringing down structural inequality in all its guises, starting with police brutality). Would have thought it would be a very happy ship?

Is it just that the pay is lower than competitors like Extinction Rebellion?

Flynn Rider 29 January 21 13:22

Womble Bond Dickinson. Toxic with board spending too much time secretly plotting against each other rather than looking after the troops

Being John Malkovich, I mean DLA Piper 29 January 21 13:24

at Dentons, we’re obsessed with becoming DLA Piper (in at 33). 

Aim higher next year boys, eh?

Surprised we didn’t win the Turd tbh for management’s genius idea of selling Covid salary cuts to save your colleagues from redundancies (to which almost all signed up to, like so many lemmings), followed by - yep, you guessed it - the redundancies anyway, this time in the name of a restructuring to keep the business competitive, given financial performance was too high to pin the blame on Covid (for which see : moving jobs to Glasgow, Warsaw or permanently remote)...

so a bunch of people being let go in the middle of a pandemic 

management winning plaudits in FT and The Lawyer tho


SM 29 January 21 14:17

Re Slaughters: there is no firm culture when working from home, the hours have been dreadful and despite the firm apparently making more money than ever, they haven't raised pay or raised associates through the salary bands.

👩🏽‍🎤 29 January 21 14:24

heh @ Flynn Rider

Anyone who worked at the Dees back in the day will raise a wry smile at that name. And maybe Travelodge too. 

Annon 13.52 29 January 21 14:31

But they forget the shafting when they receive their advent calendars.  They are simple folk and easily led but they will wake up soon and think “wtf just happened?”


Anonymous 29 January 21 14:37

Very surprised AG didn’t come lower. Wants to be a silver circle firm by beasting their lawyers in the regions to try and maintain some kind of relevance in London. Culling a load of its real estate team won’t have helped morale either...

Indianboy 29 January 21 15:15

A completely unrelated question-

I am a law student from India and had bagged an admit offer from Oxford BCL last year which I deferred for a term. I always wanted to be a barrister in London but now realizing that becoming a barrister in the UK is a very difficult job, I am okay being a solicitor as well. I just wanted to know how difficult is for an International student reading BCL at Oxford to grab a TC offer at MC/US firms or a pupilage at a top chamber


concernedofsouthampton 29 January 21 15:20

Dickie Dees/ Wombles. Missed out on our 2012 high point of Golden Turd by just 1%. You can't polish a what? Some good people still here, many left, but now sadly overrun with Trump macho types who just can't see the world has moved on. RIP Mr Bond. 

manutd 29 January 21 15:27

Womble chair steps down and managing partner and Gold Turd Dickie Dees veteran Jonathan Blair fails to win backing of his partners to succeed Chair. May explain runner up turd result.

DLAP laughing 29 January 21 15:39

Dentons so low? Bronze turd???!!!!

Biscuit quality didn't override the management decisions re salary cuts + redundancies? 

Powermaster MC Partner 29 January 21 15:58

Dear, Indianboy 29 January 21 15:15,

I look forward to hiring you as in intern in 2022 to do photocopying and document reviewing. We will keep you around for four years under the promise that we might offer you a TC one day (but we won't). 



I work there for now 29 January 21 16:07

Surprised Freshfields is as high as it is..... somehow escaped the turd award - TOXIC culture, toxic people. Hardly anyone left....... 

Non anon 29 January 21 16:25

Irwin Mitchell, Plexus and Hill Dicks higher than The Shed, Pinsents, Baker and AG. 

Guessing the IT teams were busy this December.

Fapmaster 9000 29 January 21 16:42

 "bagged an admit offer from Oxford BCL last year"

Why, you must be a very clever "Indianboy" indeed.

Really? 29 January 21 16:48

Genuinely surprised at Womble ranking, I’ve worked at two of the firms listed in top twenty and left because their environment is toxic and absolutely love working at WBD!

🃏Joker 🃏 29 January 21 17:18

So Wombles got 72% in 2020 and 31% in 2021.... which according to my graph means they will be on Minus 10 next year! 

Can anyone shed some light on what has gone so disastrously wrong? 

Anonymous 29 January 21 17:53

Greatly enjoyed the comment by “Really” at 29 January about WBD. 

They’ve worked at 2 firms. In both cases they comment on a toxic atmosphere, but now Really has left their staff seem very happy. Once “Really” goes to Wombles, they get 31%. 

Shall we have a collection to send “Really” to Keystone Law next year?

Great Uncle Bulgaria 29 January 21 20:49

Jonathan was a great leader at The Dees and I am sure has been just as great at Womble. He has single handedly took the firm to where it is now.  Donald is the greatest President America has ever had.

Ha ha 30 January 21 03:00

NRF low position well deserved and reflective of the toxic culture globally and from the top. Had an absolute shocker of a time there. 

Anonymous 30 January 21 12:48

Just imagine what the result could have been if BLM's partners hadn't been frog-marched into submitting glowing reviews. Perhaps it was a condition of the agreement they made with Barclays and HSBC?

US law firm associate 30 January 21 16:26

I always assumed Freshfields or Slaughters would have been alright to work at. I guess they do the same work as us but for half the money.

Anonymous 30 January 21 19:59

RoF’s firm of the year rankings are actually taken seriously these days.  Perhaps a few years ago this was all taken with a pinch of salt, but increasingly I hear of people making fairly significant career choices based on these rankings.  With that in mind, do you think it’s time that a little more scrutiny is given to the poll responses?  Judging by some of the comments it seems that certain rankings might not ring true with those who actually work at these firms.  Why not simply require a work email address to prove that you work there, with an assurance that the responses will remain anonymous?

Tangoed 30 January 21 20:41

Why aren’t Crawford Legal Services showing on the list? Surely firms with less than 20 lawyers are allowed to enter? 

Richard III 31 January 21 02:49

Debevoise & Plimpton very low indeed despite the US cash money (which I what I presume keeps the other american shops up -- among other things). Any ideas on why this may be..? 

Anon 31 January 21 08:24

@19:59.  They should do that, given grads do take a look at this.

Have to say, I’m not surprised at FBD though, having worked there. They try and isolate and cover up any blatant bullying that goes on, so that your colleagues are blissfully unaware of just how the partners behave towards those marked out as “different”.

Anon 31 January 21 13:24

A firm the size of WBD can't be run like it's some sort of club which the partners are finding out.

Truth Teller 31 January 21 18:05

What this survey often shows, and does again this year, is that money and satisfaction are not linked. Earning twice as much and working three times harder ain’t worth it. Often happiness and contentment come from balance, fair pay, decent working conditions and being treated with respect. Any firm can do that. Get that right and a firm will be moving forward for sure. Oh, and BTW, the focus on pay in London is very sad. There’s more to life than feeling shit about yourself or your job while earning £120k at 28 because the firm down the road pays £130k at 28. Ffs. Get a life. 

On yer bikes 01 February 21 09:32

If your firm is in the bottom 4 then you really should be looking to move.  Life is too short.


Anonymous 01 February 21 17:16

Shoosmiths managing to keep the pretence up for another year - oh those poor trainees and paralegals that are fooled into completing this survey. They pay s*** and work you hard and it's the most toxic place ever. The London office is a toxic wasteland full of old partners that have no where better to go - it's a farce

Anonymous 01 February 21 17:18

Let's totally ignore the fact that Osborne Clarke hasn't done a pay review or paid any bonuses since 2019...

Not surprised 04 February 21 20:32

Shoosmiths begged their employees to partake in this survey, all lawyers received several emails about it. I don’t know one person on my team let alone office who provided positive feedback. Confused car crash indeed 

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