Staff at Keystone Law (93%), Mills & Reeve (93%) and Mayer Brown (93%) are the happiest with their firm's culture in the UK, the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2021 survey has found.  

Keystone Law was crowned the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2021, and staff praised the firm's "collegiate" culture. "There is a real sense of collaboration with colleagues," said a partner.  A lot of staff agreed that Keystone's unorthodox model resulted in very little "politics" or "back-stabbing".  A partner said the "flat structure" created a "culture of team work", and lawyers were "not paranoid about losing clients to disingenuous colleagues". 

In joint-first place, Mayer Brown was described as "friendly" and "inclusive" by several members of staff. "London Managing partner Sally Davies is proactive and visible," said one. "She is very keen to be seen to be leading the charge on key issues such as diversity and whole-firm discussion on culture." Take note Hong Kong

Also in joint-first, 3xRollOnFriday Firm of the Year Mills & Reeve, has continued to maintain a strong culture during the pandemic. "The firm has been pulling out the stops with wellbeing since lockdown and we have a full throttle winter challenge running until February to keep us moving, entertained, and feeling part of the firm despite not being in the office," said a senior lawyer.

culture chart

Aside from the top three firms, 27 firms scored a decent mark of 75% or above.

Burges Salmon (92%) came joint-fourth. A partner said that throughout the pandemic "teams have been supportive of one another, innovative in how to keep in touch and develop new ways of working and at (almost all times) with great humour and always with compassion". A lawyer said "the no dickheads rule appears to be in play, at least for about 7/8 of the firm."

Sharing fourth spot was fellow Bristol-headquartered firm Osborne Clarke (92%). "I cannot rave enough about OC" said a senior lawyer, "I complete this survey every year because I want people from more traditional City law firms to know that there is a much better life out there."

Ropes & Gray came joint-sixth with a score of 91% for culture. "Everyone is very open and friendly - it definitely does make the hours more bearable," said a junior lawyer. "We've all come together this last year, more so than before to make sure we are all able to support one another through these difficult times," said a business services member of staff, "from group cocktail making sessions to movie nights on Zoom - everybody has made an effort to keep our family style culture alive."

Sharing the joint-sixth position was Travers Smith (91%). A junior lawyer said the firm was "much friendlier and more approachable than the blue blooded reputation would have you believe. I haven't met a single Rupert, Henrietta or Tarquin". 

Shearman & Sterling (90%) came 8th. A junior lawyer said the firm was "a great place to work - everyone is exceptionally welcoming and it's a far-cry from the hard-nosed US firm stereotype". A trainee said: "Obviously with a year spent out of the office it has been harder to connect socially, but I can see the effort being put in to make sure we all still build relationships". 

Staff satisfaction with culture at Bird & Bird (89%), placed their firm joint-ninth. New-joiners said they had been made to feel welcome. "I can talk to anyone - which is great, particularly during COVID lockdowns," said a trainee. "I imagine it's only going to get better when we're all back in the office together." A senior lawyer said, "I moved here because it had such a good reputation as a great place to work and it's held true".

Sharing ninth, was DAC Beachcroft (89%). A partner said the firm had put "people first" as "the priority has been wellbeing and not billing throughout lockdowns". A paralegal said that "Zoom quizzes and drinks are rife and surprising fun", but thought that management should have "used the summer party budget to send everyone a bottle". 

Also in ninth spot, Mishcon de Reya (89%) was praised for being supportive. A junior lawyer said, "I've found that the 'open door' culture we have has extended to the new virtual world." 

"A genuinely nice bunch of people," said a senior lawyer at Macfarlanes (87%), placed in joint-12th spot. "A bit old fashioned still but genuinely trying to become more inclusive while retaining the atmosphere where everyone pretty much knows everyone else". A business services member of staff said: "Surprisingly the firm has probably had more engagement in cultural events than it ever did last year", citing a series of talks that attracted "over 400 people on one zoom call; you'd never get that many people to come to a physical lecture at lunchtime".

RPC (87%) placed joint-12th. "I know that we are known to be very woke," said a business services staffer, "in practice that actually means that people respect each other, and as someone who now works in business services, the lawyers acknowledge the set of skills you bring to the firm."

Sharing 12th spot was Shoosmiths (87%). "The firm has near daily lunchtime webinars in an attempt to recreate 'watercooler chats' with colleagues," said a senior lawyer. "Beyond that many teams use the existing functionalities to try and keep in touch with each other. There is generally a good vibe in the firm all things considered."

Clarke Willmott (87%) was also in joint-12th. "The firm feels like a family," said a business services member of staff, "even if occasionally an odd Partner is thrown into the mix - it's like your weird uncle who only shows up drunk at Christmas".

In 16th position was Trower & Hamlins (86%). "Good culture around diversity and inclusivity, though in terms of working parents this can be compromised when they need you to get work done quickly," said a senior lawyer. They added "there is an open and friendly culture throughout and good communication from top level management". 

Plexus Law scored 84%, placing 17th. "The vast majority are very happy it would seem and get along great. Hard work is celebrated and tossers are not tolerated" said a junior lawyer. 

At Hogan Lovells (81%), in joint-19th, a junior lawyer said, "The partners' attitudes vary from team to team but my lot are decent and genuinely care about people's welfare. You get commiserations for late hours and praise for good work - that's pretty rare for City firms."

Sharing 19th spot was Latham & Watkins (81%). "If you ignore the fact that we all have to do 1900 hours, and that hours culture is pervasive, the firm's attention is on the right things - pro bono, diversity, charity and welfare," said a lawyer.

With a score of 80%, Pinsent Masons placed 21st. "This is the 4th firm I have worked at in a legal career of 20 years and it has the best culture by miles," said a senior lawyer. "A great firm that genuinely cares about its people and seeks to make a difference."

Herbert Smith Freehills (78%) came 22nd. "Fairly approachable people, good networks and events based around family, race, and mental health," said a trainee. "Culture is very much development focused rather than just how much you bill."

Placing joint-23rd was Eversheds Sutherland and Irwin Mitchell (77%). "Some of the dinosaurs have now gone and the hierarchy feels almost invisible," said a senior lawyer at Eversheds Sutherland, "you can have a chat with a partner like you would chat with a PA or a peer." In a similar vein, an Irwin Mitchell lawyer said, "there are still pockets of the 'old guard' here and there, but on the whole IM is a much nicer, more egalitarian and more pleasant place than it was 5 years ago. Still work to do, but the trajectory is there."

CMS and TLT came joint-25th on 76%. "The Partners are pretty awesome (just don't tell them that)," said a business services member of staff at CMS. "They've included Business Services in team events, check ins and forums throughout and have done what they can to ensure everyone is comfortable and supported. I even had one call my the other day just to check in after he'd seen an email from me at 3am."  At senior lawyer at TLT said the "best thing about the firm - it's retained its distinctiveness (friendly, down to earth, ambitious) even while growing rapidly over the last 10 years."

Gowling WLG placed 27th with a score of 75%. "Still the friendly Wragge & Co under the bonnet," opined a senior lawyer. 

Tip Off ROF


Anonymous 12 February 21 09:45

Where is this "pleasant" Irwin Mitchell of which you speak? I only know the horrible, nasty one which grinds me down every day.

just a thought 12 February 21 10:09

This could not be more subjective. Lathams hitting 81% despite the quoted comment above that the "hours culture is pervasive". I imagine people at a lot of firms would deem somewhere with an "hours culture" to have a terrible culture regardless of what other things the firm is attentive to. I also know some departments in my firm have a totally sh*t culture whilst others have a great culture.


You know you need it, RoF 12 February 21 10:57

W@nkers per capita ratio needed.

One idiot can ruin the culture in a whole department. While other teams report a great culture in their department, they know that other colleagues are experiencing w@nker wrath every day somewhere else in their firm. 

Need to call this out to get a more accurate picture of the firm as a whole - for employees, clients and future trainees do. 

Do it, RoF. 

Make the Firm of the Year survey great again. 

lol 12 February 21 11:19

@10:09 - surely thought it's relative to your expectations?  You would have to be extremely naive to take a job at Latham and be surprised by an hours culture being pervasive when a 1900 hr target is the known expectation.   

Pat Butcher 12 February 21 11:34

You only have to be close to the trainee population in your own firm to know that people’s perception of culture can vary enormously team from team i.e go from being treated with something close to respect to constantly fighting off that pesky mental/emotional breakdown. Some people will look at the scores here and justifiably wonder how the f*ck their firm scored so highly. I know I certainly do.

Wouldn’t be surprised if grad spent their weekends putting positive reviews in to jack the scores up so as to not scare off the next generation of victims, but that is just me being a tired, cynical, overworked little peasant. 

Anon 12 February 21 12:00

My key takeaway is that as well as paying more the US law firms generally trump the MC on culture too. 

Response 12 February 21 18:39

Lol @11:19 - yes, it is relative to your expectations, i.e. subjective.


Would also be interested to see the number of responses per firm for these surveys 

Should’ve never left 15 February 21 10:05

Would’ve expected Trowers to place higher. Fab culture. Shame I left. 

Hmmm sadly not independently wealthy and need my job 15 February 21 15:47

Entirely agree IM remains a bleak place to work with a rotten way of treating its staff, unless you want to forget your morals and join one of the circle jerk posts on social media and trample all over colleagues to get along

MB NQ 29 July 21 02:51

Sad thing is, even though Mayer scores so highly here the firm still refuse to pay up in London. In NY the salaries are pegged against the likes of Davis Polk and in London they're paying 90k plus 5k bonus or so... Firm needs to have a look at this or people will flee in their droves. Culture won't pay your mortgage...

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