Supervisors may take longer to arrive.
Firms appearing in the middle of the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2021 rankings for satisfaction with career development were praised by plenty of their people - but certainly not all. Irwin Mitchell drew a large number of heated responses, and while Magic Circle firms were praised for the quality of work, slim partnership prospects drew criticism.
"I am surrounded at Partners' meetings by incompetent brown-nosers who don't know how to manoeuvre themselves out of a tricky legal scenario", said an Irwin Mitchell partner. "Ridiculous".
"My practice area at this firm is like a train on a Beeching line that they ripped-up in the 1960s", said a senior IM solicitor. "The route is there, but unless someone actually invests in some infrastructure, it's just a train crash".
Irwin Mitchell, said a partner, was "adrift on a raft in an ocean of mid-tier shit and everyone is paddling in different directions. Frequently people just fall off the raft and are seen shouting abuse before they sink without trace".
"It would be fine if I could sleep with my reporting partner (as others have done), but he's not my type", said a lawyer at the PI firm. A junior said career development was "all about arbitrarily creating as many rungs for the ladder as possible, and then tipping barrels of hot grease over that ladder".
But it wasn't all brickbats, hence the firm's decent score. "There are endless opportunities at IM", countered a female partner, "and it is a true meritocracy. Women are encouraged to progress and we have many inspirational role models in senior positions".
At TLT the HR team "have really stepped up in the last few years - promotion processes are transparent", said a lawyer there, and "there's no 'up or out' pressure so people can get on with doing what they're good at and enjoy". A more senior lawyer gave a supervisor's perspective on the downside of developing careers: "The further up the chain, the more bollocks that goes with it. Managing juniors is like preparing for the school run".
Linklaters placed highest of the Magic Circle for career development. "Training is excellent, and the work is second to none", said a junior solicitor at the elite firm. Although, said another, "For every lucky 10PQE managing associate newly made up to partner, there are over a dozen brow-beaten MAs left by the way-side. Or, even worse, that 15PQE associate who just won't give up". A senior solicitor said the deal was clear. "Some pretty sensible 'career conversations' mean I know where I stand and what I have to do. I'm under no illusion about the odds of making partner (which is a good thing in terms of honesty and planning)".
Clifford Chance was next of the MC five, with 62%. "True progression (i.e. how to get the p-badge) is still shrouded in opaque mystery, like a less exciting, but more valuable, version of Merlin's woollen winter cloak", said a senior associate. "But they make reasonable noises on all other less meaningful levels". As expected of a Magic Circle firm, "The quality of work I have access to is spectacular", said a junior CC solicitor. "I haven't had a bad deal yet".
Like Irwin Mitchell, BLM received some stinging verdicts from its people on the basis of its sector. "The terms 'development' and 'defendant insurance law' don't belong in the same sentence", said a BLM senior solicitor. "If you want to top out at £80k" working "in a collapsing industry, this is the place for you", offered a junior solicitor.
"It's the young ones I feel sorry for", said a partner. "It's like Shawshank Redemption here at BLM but with with no redemption and more tunnelling through shit". There was helpful advice, too, however: "If we could go ahead and stop calling the trainee managers the 'emerging talent managers' that would be great. Seriously, what is that?"
At Allen & Overy, said one lawyer, "Juniors must be excellent - but not so excellent that they form expectations about their prospects".
And at Slaughter and May, "I've got more chance of getting free tango classes off the Taliban than I have of making partner", said an associate. But it's a double-edged sword. As the key point approaches, partners "decide whether to milk you for as long as possible or give you equity - and depression/divorce". The work, though, "is good and incredibly broad, and juniors are chucked in at the deep end early on (in financing teams at least)", said a Slaughters junior. "On the job learning is therefore top-notch".