The RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2017 is Burges Salmon.

Over 4,900 lawyers and non-fee-earners across the UK participated in RollOnFriday's survey, which asked them to rate their satisfaction with pay, career development, management, culture, work/life balance and the social life, biscuits and bogs at their firm. 

It is the second year in a row that the popular Bristol firm has taken the top spot, and this year it doesn't even have to share its tiara with US firm Shearman & Sterling. Burges Salmon took the trophy with an overall score of 82%. Staff expressed how happy they were in Bristol, where it's "nice to know I won't die early because of London pollution". The "Bristol life", enthused a trainee, comprised "reasonable hours, proximity to fresh air and the countryside", plus "cheaper cost of living and a walk to work - and although the salary isn't megabucks, it's good enough". 

But the culture of the firm was key. "They really seem to care about the trainees" said one. "I stayed until 8pm one night and two partners I didn't know both stuck their heads around the door to make sure I was ok". Another offered perhaps the ultimate accolade: "I would definitely recommend Burges Salmon to a friend".

"Friendly" cropped up again and again to describe the people at BS. Any "initial dickishness from recent lateral hires is beaten out quickly", said an associate, assuring RollOnFriday that, "Even the 'difficult' characters are a walk in the park compared to some of the dragons I've dealt with elsewhere. I felt particularly reassured when we found ourselves working opposite one of the Magic Circle firms on a recent deal", where the Burges Salmon partner was "horrified by how willing their counterpart was to throw his associate to the wolves".  

  "Not only am I refusing your offer, I'm leaving the City and moving to Bristol." 

"All credit to management", said a junior associate."Right from the very top there is a real employee-friendly feel to the place". It is, said a junior associate, "ingrained in Burges Salmon staff that being friendly and courteous is one of (if not THE) most important things we do". It is, said a senior associate, "big enough to be a hard-hitting player in the market", but can also "feel like an episode of 'Cheers' where 'everybody knows your name' (which is a really nice thing!)". 

Burges Salmon "really seem to have the knack of employing really lovely sensible people", said a senior associate. Another admits, "I think if they sacked me one day I wouldn't bother working as a lawyer anywhere else - I genuinely think that (flaws included) this might be as good as it gets".   

Managing Partner Peter Morris said, “We’re thrilled to be named RollOnFriday Firm of the Year for the second year in a row. I’m very grateful to all our people who responded to the survey so positively. We know that there are always things that we can do better but it is encouraging to know that we are on the right track. We will continue on our quest to make this the best firm we can for all our people”.

Just pipped to the post by 1%, fellow Bristol firm Osborne Clarke came joint second with 81%. The culture at Osborne Clarke is "excellent", said a trainee, with "a strong emphasis on our well-being". And, just as importantly, "I usually leave no later than 6:30pm". Partners are "down to earth" and "treat everyone with respect and courtesy", said a senior associate, which "shouldn't be a point to note but it is in this profession sadly".

There is a "sensible take on (having a) family life" at The OC, said another associate, where "I feel entirely supported in my career development". Management is dynamic, said several others, with one concluding that Osborne Clarke is "Small enough to listen, big enough to make some noise". As for "Sunday night dread", it is "actually a thing of the past - not something I ever thought I'd say". Another agrees: "I guess probably one of the best things to illustrate how much I like working here: I NEVER get the Sunday evening blues".

Managing Partner Ray Berg said, "There's always a huge sense of anticipation at OC when the RollonFriday survey results are due, and this year they were really worth the wait – what a brilliant result! Thank you to the hundreds of colleagues who wrote in with feedback. Who wouldn't want to be Managing Partner of Osborne Clarke?"
A City outfit did make the top three. IP specialist Bird & Bird came joint second. Almost everyone is "pretty friendly" according to a 2Birds senior associate, and they tend to be "genuinely interested in their work". The move to a new office has had a largely positive reaction. It "has polarised opinion", said a junior associate, "but I think it's greatNo longer being split over three sites makes a big difference. The breakfast in the new canteen is excellent and it has the bonus of being on the 11th floor with amazing views rather than in the basement with mice and a funny smell". 

Moving to 2Birds from the Magic Circle was "a revelation" says a 4PQE. "I was pleasantly surprised to find that two birds treats its associates as real human beings rather than bottom feeding robots". And it offers "genuine work-life balance without compromising top quality work", to boot, plus "a commitment to gender diversity which is really welcome". And there is "literally an open door policy as we don't have doors any more in our new building". 

David Kerr, CEO of Bird & Bird LLP, said, "Bringing all of our London people under one roof when we moved into our new office has certainly increased collaboration and a feeling of joint working. Our fantastic new facilities make this a great place to come to work each day but more than that, I find great pleasure in working alongside people who are truly passionate about what they do. It is great that this feeling is reflected across the firm."

Check back next week for the complete rankings.
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Anonymous 20 January 17 11:15

recent ex OCer- pretty much agree with the results. New biscuits in London office are great- studded with smarties and apparently freshly baked on-site. the toilets are pretty awful though and not what should be expected from a top law firm. It's starting to look a bit shabby in the offices though (London and Bristol- Reading is great). management and people generally are very nice- the culture is shifting slightly towards a more 'corporate' feel and the firm shakes off it's 'regional' firm label. Shaking this off is still pretty hard though as all of accounts and other services are still Bristol based which can be infuriating for Londoners. Further, while the firm is increasingly 'international' it doesn't necessary feel it on a day to day basis- they haven't learnt how to capitalise on that just yet- it's not like other firms where there are actually international opportunities available.

Anonymous 20 January 17 18:04

I was waiting for some dish on Jones Day. Disappointed.

Anonymous 21 January 17 19:15

As a client of BS in the nuclear sector,I've always found them a good bunch to work with...happy staff means happy clients in practice.