"Thanks trainee for the feedback. I'll be sure to take it on board."
Around 3,800 respondents have completed the RollOnFriday Best Law Firms to Work at 2023 survey so far. If you have yet to do so, grab a mince pie, nuke its fillings to a hot lava state, and enjoy/scold your mouth while filling in the boxes below.
The current crop of trainees (aka the partnership of 2035) have been giving their views on their respective firms.
Burges Salmon trainees have largely been very positive about the firm's management: "Excellent leadership, particularly in the context of flexible working and WFH policies," said one. "The firm couldn't be better on those fronts from what I have experienced".
Fellow Bristol headquartered firm, Osborne Clarke, was also praised for its management: "The culture really comes from the top down. Ray Berg is a legend, and he will be sorely missed."
Trainees at some other firms were less impressed. "Senior management don't seem to be in touch with their staff," said an Irwin Mitchell trainee. "Lots of ideas (some good and so not so good) are talked about at length, but in reality teams continue to lose people due to being underpaid/overworked."
With Covid lockdowns seeming like some weird distant cheese-dream, trainees have been settling back into their offices. A Burges Salmon trainee noted that the firm offers a "Friday cake trolley" a "gin trolley in the Edinburgh office", and a "dangerously good canteen with lots of options."
"The free food is the biggest perk at White & Case," said a trainee at the US firm. "Getting all three meals plus snacks and coffee for free makes such a difference, makes it worthwhile coming into the office and takes a massive stress off our plates." While a trainee at Clyde & Co approved of the firm's "lovely" red velvet cake.
Food cravings aside, one Travers Smith trainee bemoaned the lack of space at their workplace: "Six people sharing an office the size of my bedroom. I’m currently sat at a desk that would previously only have been used in a pinch for someone like a vacation schemer."
A Macfarlanes trainee was equally dismayed: "The office is crap and we are spread out over 4 sites which is logistically frustrating. Aesthetically it’s no where near up to the standard of peers...It’s so clearly time for the firm to move however the grey hairs at the firm love the location for nostalgia so doubt we are moving anytime soon."
Trainees also opined on the culture at their firms. "After hearing all the stories you hear about Slaughters I was prepared for the worst but in reality, it's been brilliant," said a trainee at the Magic Circle firm. "The only part that maybe is true is the level of geekiness, but everyone is lovely. I really feel like not having billable hours targets changes the way people think."
A White & Case trainee said the firm was "not stuffy at all" and had a "very diverse range of trainees who each bring something different to the table rather than everyone being Oxbridge mates-of-mates."
Conversely, a trainee at another US firm said: "The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world Ropes & Gray has a great culture".
A Watson Farley & Williams trainee gave their firm a low rating for culture: "Some people are totally miserable and overworked, as a result their crappy attitude rubs off and it becomes part of the general atmosphere. Socials in some departments feel forced - not a genuine social culture."
A Hogan Lovells trainee said a partner known for their "bullying behaviour" regularly posted on LinkedIn about how they are "kind, caring and honest". And "adding insult to injury the posts usually include a professionally taken photo...where she is doing something weird like staring at an empty coffee cup with a smirk on her face that looks like she just silently passed wind and is waiting for the smell to drift over to you".
A Trowers & Hamlins trainee complained that trainee supervisors were uninterested, and that the firm's Training Partner was "asleep at the wheel" as she barely spoke to the cohort of trainees "during our whole training contract".
Trainees also reflected on the wedge offered by their firm. "Lets be honest, lawyers get paid too much - I'm happy," said a trainee at Plexus. "I can’t complain about 50k at my age with the modest hours I’ve been doing," said a satisfied Latham & Watkins trainee.
"We had a raise last year and get a bonus of about 8%," said a trainee at Travers Smith. "I know some firms don’t give trainees bonuses at all so I’m happy with that."
"When you factor in the work-life balance and the better cost of living in Bristol, I feel like trainee pay is a very, very good deal compared to my friends in the City, who may be paid slightly more but are really made to work for it," said a trainee at Burges Salmon. While another noted: "We have had pay rises with inflation which is good".
There were grumbles elsewhere over salary. A Womble Bond Dickinson trainee said: "We are overdue a pay rise particularly when taking into account inflation and the sizeable pay increases the rest of the firm (except trainees and NQs) received in May... no doubt the recession will be quoted as the reason why". They added that "some of the lowest paid in the firm" would "be made worse off during an economic downturn...maybe we are being advised by Liz Truss (and we all know how well that went)."
A Dentons trainee said: "A petty firm when it comes to money. They dragged their feet and were forced to raise NQ and paralegal pay after the market changed and almost all of their best NQs and paralegals left."
A TLT trainee said that trainee pay and NQ pay "is lower than our competitors, even with a slight increase this month due to the cost of living." They raised the issue with management "but to no avail". The trainee said the response was "disappointing considering the firm is doing so well financially" and that many trainees "are planning to move to higher paying firms once qualified." Another agreed: "Pay reviews are measly which is confusing considering how much the firm talks about being proud about their increased profits and growth."
An Irwin Mitchell trainee said that although the firm had given pay rises: "The only problem is every other firm has raised their salaries as well, and by more, meaning that IM once again remains back of the pack for national firms in terms of pay."
Whether you're a fresh-faced trainee or a long in the tooth lawyer, take the survey below.