Supervisors are always on hand.

A DIY approach to training propelled Keystone Law to the top score for career development in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2021 Survey.

Keystone's franchise-esque model means established lawyers often join as partners, and can work when and how they like. Plenty showed up in the survey to explain that their independence extended to career development, and that they were very satisfied with the person in charge of their training: themselves. "No spreadsheet tyrants, no meaningless flipchart strategy nonsense. It's all down to me and that's just how I like it", said one. "There is no career development", said a partner who set himself even less homework: "Bliss".

Shearman & Sterling placed third after Ropes & Gray thanks to the fact it "remains a big name in the market, which ensures a steady stream of high profile deals", according to a junior solicitor. "Given the lean teams and low partner:associate ratio, I get to play a large role on complex deals", they said.

"Supervisors and other seniors genuinely seem to care about what I want for the future and where I'm headed", said a Shearman trainee. "They're either exceptional actors or a genuinely lovely bunch. Hopefully the latter!"

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Mills & Reeve offered "decent training and support", said a junior solicitor. "If there is one negative it's that progression up the ranks is glacial", as the PQE bands for promotion "are pretty much set in stone". But anyone can make it, said a female partner. "I have been encouraged to achieve my very best at every stage of my development - English is my second language and I come from a BAME single parent background and was on free school meals".   

M&R wasn't alone in delving into diversity. "I'm a woman and a mother", said a lawyer at DAC Beachcroft. "Still made partner before 35". Although in business services "people seem to join and just it's like waiting for people to die before you can get a promotion", said an employee. "Even when roles do open up they seem to create more and more managers, everywhere".

Burges Salmon provided "Excellent support", said a trainee, although "the impact of Covid-19 and remote working on my training contract experience has been considerable in terms of loss of development by 'osmosis'". It was an observation made by trainees from across the surveyed firms.

"Historically, there have been concerns about career development for people who weren't white men", said a female senior solicitor at City powerhouse Macfarlanes. "I do think the firm is working hard to change that, though, and they have implemented a number of systems to ensure work allocation, access to clients and opportunity for BD is fairer and more balanced". 

A Macs trainee spoke of "a real emphasis placed on getting trainees involved in juicy matters", albeit in some teams the mindset was that "throwing trainees in at the deep end is the best way for them to learn". Which, "most times, is valid, but some departments could be better at giving a few more swimming lessons". 

"Naturally, coming from zero practical experience, I am very happy with the development", said a paralegal at Mishcon de Reya. "I regularly draft full suites of documents on quite large deals". Yes, said a Mishcon senior solicitor, "Some of the dinosaurs still roaming Africa House have been blocking people for a while", but "on the whole the firm encourages upward trajectory, and it certainly isn't 'up or out'".

It's also not up or out at Osborne Clarke, said a solicitor at the highly-regarded Bristol-based firm. "As a senior lawyer who is not looking for partnership at the moment, due to personal circumstances etc., that is much appreciated", he said. 

Another OC lawyer agreed, specifying how the firm's legal director position "allows me to have a senior position while also being someone who is on the autism spectrum. The role means that I don't have to take on pastoral care or not a lot of client development work". Of course the appraisal and promotion forms "remain a ball ache", said a colleague, "but I think that is a universal truth".

A female junior solicitor at Shoosmiths said she "managed to secure promotion ahead of when I would have expected it", but ROF has its money on the hungry Shoos paralegal who complained that the rest of his team were "wasters who stay for years to pay for their flatshare, weekend dope and GTA/Call of Duty, or people who treat it like a summer job and drift away after a couple of months".

Career development was "getting better" at Plexus Law, the Golden Turd of 2014, although the lack of performance reviews - "0 in 5 years" - was "frustrating", said a senior solicitor at the firm. It attracted a fair score from staff, so presumably the junior solicitor who said "the only way to progress is to leave and then apply externally for a higher position in a year or two" was an outlier.

HFW had also improved, said staff. "Some decent structures have been put in in recent years", said a senior solicitor, while the shipping specialist "continues to attract great cases which usually have an international element", said a colleague. "Never had a problem" with career development, said another HFW lawyer, "but then I work myself into the ground and I'm willing to be 'difficult'".

There was reasonable satisfaction with career development at many of the mid-table firms, but the pole got greasy at the bottom-ranked.

Tip Off ROF


Anon 07 March 21 09:36

No comments on the good news? 
Maybe firms who treat their staff like cash generating sheep should read this?

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