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".

cd score

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". 

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 05 March 21 16:53

"Endless opportunites" and "lots of rungs" seem to correlate. The long and winding path to a partnership which it turns out is just like being an employee of a Sheffield-based firm...

Anon 05 March 21 20:45

The PI sector is dead.
It was once a good career, but on the Def side, law firms competed to cut prices. Who can blame insurance company procurement teams for taking advantage of idiots. 
On the claimant side, the real scandal is that big business persuaded Jackson to cut costs to a point where access to justice ended. 
If you are in a PI firm, leave! Get a job that pays. 

Anonymous 06 March 21 12:21

PI is either being a case management monkey pressing buttons (on the Claimant side) or being the low-panel-rates bitch of really nasty insurers who are never happy with anything (on the Defendant side). Happy to have left it behind for comm. lit. *Never* work for insurers if you can avoid it. They are all sociopathic (so much sobthat they fail to notice when their lawyers are similarly unhinged).

Anon 06 March 21 19:25

And Pi doesn’t just extend to personal injury.   Professional indemnity is hot on its heels.   It’s becoming an increasingly commoditised market. Insurers care little for quality or depth of analysis in most claims, but rather are more interested in whether you can settle the claim promptly and cheaply on a broad brush basis to get it off their books without messing it up totally.   Yes, now and then, there might be a large value claim (with a significant insured client) in which case insurers have to throw some cash at it to justify the premium they charge that firm, but even in this case, the hourly rates are still pitifully low compared to banking or commercial lit in the city, and insurers will make savings elsewhere anyway. . Hourly rates on panels have barely moved in some cases for 10 or 15 years, and if you factor in inflation, the current values are significantly less than they were when these rates were first agreed, and firms would need to increase volumes significantly to just to keep their heads above water. However, in a hardening  market, this is not possible and yet their models mean they are now dependant on this line of work to survive and can’t negotiate.  

Consequently, to cope with the poor returns,  increasing levels of work are shipped out to the regions, where the rates are even lower, and fixed fee work is becoming the norm.  Quality is frankly inconsistent, and there is a commensurate impact on salaries.  You max out at around 60-70k as a senior associate if you’re lucky, even when leading cases with minimal support,  then hit a cap for life, which is quite a bit less than NQs are paid in top to mid level city firms doing proof reading and bundling.   Insurers hardly ever want to take a case to trial, and so are mainly looking at a balance sheet because most prof neg claims are under £500k and don’t justify panel billing  decent sums.  Many are leaving the market or reducing their underwriting risk.   Insureds increasingly buy cover on price, and change every year or so, so there is no incentive for insurers to build long term relationships.  Instead they now look at MI to evaluate panel’s performance, which puts her more pressure on rates.   It’s a shame because the work is actually intellectually interesting and raises real issues of law - hence why prof indemnity lawyers always used to look down their noses at ambulance chasers - but it’s not an area anyone should enter who is starting their career now.   







Fake US Partner 11 March 21 11:04

I work defense side PI in the US and while the pay is far better than the US, the insurance industry has done the same over here. Talk to older attorneys and they will tell you about the glory days of the 1970's and 1980's when they would submit a bill "For Legal services rendered" and it would be paid at full rates 100%. Now insurance companies have driven down rates to below $200 an hour in some cases. Computer programs search for keywords and flag billing entries for non-payment. They cut 25% off each bill and force you to appeal. It's a great race to the bottom. Yet at every legal conference you go to there are the partners sucking up to some insurance bigwig so they can get the $175 per hour insurance defense work. Insurance companies are also awful to work with - trying to get moron adjusters to understand the value and risk of a case. Often your own adjuster will be more of a problem than opposing counsel. The only relief we have is that some of our larger clients are self-insured, get it, and pay the bills at fair rates. Meanwhile business and commercial litigation are billing out at anything from $300 to $600 per hour depending on experience and getting paid. I am switching sides to plaintiffs' PI shortly. 

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