"On the plus side, we are just about to roll out a 'Be Kind' initiative."
Over 3,400 legal staff have been rating or slating their firms in the RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work At 2023 survey. If you're in private practice, it's your time to spill the beans about your firm. Do it, do it, do it.
Respondents have been having their say on culture, where one man’s meat is another woman’s poison. Just three weeks in and plenty of opinions have already been aired, with some questioning how heartfelt the motives behind their firms' culture-shaping initiatives really are.
"It would be nice to know what the firm culture is meant to be," said a senior lawyer at Kennedys: "at the moment all we get is that we should 'be kind be Kennedys'".
"There are a lot of 'initiatives' being rolled out, diversity, inclusion, work life balance etc most of which are necessary," says a lawyer at Slaughter and May. "But perhaps if a little common sense, and the idea of just acting normally and treating people normally, were there in the first place, such innovative things as 'don't make people do non-urgent work on an urgent basis' wouldn't need to be spelled out".
Even firms which are clocking up good reviews of their culture have their critics. A Macfarlanes lawyer claims it is "still conservative and stuck in the 1970s", while a solicitor at Travers Smith says its marketing is "at odds with the invective delivered by dinosaur partners walking the corridors bemoaning the lack of bums on seats post-pandemic".
"Practices are run as a series of fiefdoms, and no-one intervenes as long as they appear to make money," says a senior lawyer at Simpson Thacher & Bartlett. "A number of partners are ruthless narcissists, and not even particularly good at their official jobs...as long as they are shrewd enough to toady to management, no-one cares what they do to their teams", they add.
A Trowers & Hamlins lawyer claims the firm "is extremely stingy with socials", and the lack of esprit de corp is exacerbated by a "pretty toxic atmosphere within my particular team, with constant criticism of each others' work/styles/approaches".
The Eric Cantona award for most bizarre (but genius?) comment so far goes to a senior lawyer at Squire Patton Boggs, who likens its culture to "a room with a bunch of people in it and a dead body with a slit throat, everyone grimaces and complains about the smell and the sight of it; a senior-looking older person tells a younger person to put a cloak over it and drag it to the corner. The senior person then lets out a gigantic sulphuric fart and shouts 'all better now, happy Monday everyone, back to work!'"
Plenty are praising their firms, too. A CMS lawyer says it is "genuinely nice and down to earth", while a Shoosmiths lawyer describes the firm's culture as "hugely supportive and not hierarchical at all".
"There is a certain reputation of US law firm culture," says a trainee at Shearman & Sterling, but "we certainly do not fit it. In my experience, everyone is friendly and easy to get along with regardless of seniority",
Disagree with your colleagues' comments? Rally to your firm's defence, or not, and take the survey below.