Shearman & Sterling's lawyers and staff are the most satisfied in private practice with their career development.
"Small teams mean plenty of opportunity to take responsibility and progress", said a senior solicitor at the US firm's London office in their response to the giant RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2020 survey. "Though it remains for you to take - nothing is handed to you on a plate".
Shearman scored 84% which meant that, like the rest of the firms mentioned in this story, their staff were mainly satisfied or very satisfied with their training and opportunities to advance. Firm of the Year 2020 Mills & Reeve (83%) took second and Trowers & Hamlins (82%) third.
"Getting into the partnership seems like a tough ask", said a solicitor at fourth-equal Macfarlanes (79%), "but at the same time, it's tough anywhere decent". Ultimately, "I get better work and more responsibility that magic circle counterparts", they said. "Gotta feel for the 4PQE solicitor at Links across the table who is only the 4th most qualified solicitor on the matter."
Career development at Travers Smith (79%) was now "more structured and transparent" although a couple of solicitors grumbled about "a real logjam for career progression in corporate", whereas "other departments (disputes, financial services) seem to have unlimited room for partners".
"There's lots of opportunity to get involved", said a senior solicitor at DAC Beachcroft (79%), but not in the way one lawyer wants. "I'll be the most junior member for the foreseeable future", they said, so to the rest of the team, "I will forever be part trainee/administrative assistant/general dogsbody. I foresee myself being ten years qualified and still printing other peoples' productions".
Burges Salmon (78%) "really cares for homegrown talent", said junior solicitors, while "the introduction of a director role has helped create an alternative career path". Some said it was "a consolation prize", others that it created "a real bridge for the path to partnership".
Partners: not all bad.
"Totally transparent partner promotion track, which happens at 6PQE", said pretty much all respondents from Kirkland & Ellis (77%). It was "extreme", managed a senior solicitor.
"They try hard to promote people but there are structural problems across the whole legal sector which make promotion much harder than it should be", said a senior solicitor at Mishcon de Reya (76%). But Mishcon "is better than most though, I think".
"Anyone with any energy or ambition to change anything is blocked by the ageing equity partners", complained a solicitor at Clarke Willmott, "hence they leave". A junior solicitor referred to a "huge turn-over rate of staff", and said it meant "teams offer people unmerited promotions to keep them to stay - leading to a rise of Senior Associates with only 4 years' qualification". Perhaps those happy SAs help explain its excellent 76%.
"Ain't going any further than current partnership rung", said a partner at Former Golden Turd Plexus Law (76%). But that was "fine. Only wanted to get this far so as to justify parents' massive expense in putting me through law degree, LPC, etc". "I was promised my own office and 'amazing partnership prospects'", said a lateral hire at Plexus. "Instead I'm sat in an open plan office surrounded by 18 year old apprentices".