02 February 2012
RollOnFriday's UK Firm of the Year 2012 survey has come to an end (check out all the results here). After receiving thousands of votes, the numbers have been fed through RollOnFriday's supercomputer and Dickinson Dees has emerged rock bottom. The Newcastle-based firm carries off RollOnFriday's famous Golden Turd with an overall score of just 49%.

So what has led to such a poor result? Pay is always a key driver, and the firm's score of 41% puts it in the bottom three nationwide (beating only Irwin Mitchell and Dundas & Wilson). It faces the wrath of its underpaid employees who claim the "penny pinching" firm benchmarks its salaries against "tiny Newcastle firms". For a major regional player, that "just doesn't cut it".

The firm was also firmly at the bottom of the league table for career development with a pretty horrifying 46%. Although one lawyer claimed senior management are "great" and another that the firm "encouraged development", others saw things very differently. One associate claimed the firm had "no loyalty to its staff", with another explaining that his chances of getting partnership "are significantly lower than my chances of getting killed by an escaped walrus - which is a depressing thought on the way to work". Worryingly, one respondent claimed the firm is "male dominated at partner level. Having a baby appears to be the end of your career".

    This, Dickinson Dees, is for you.

The gloomy results continue in the openness category, where the firm scored a dreadful 39%. In particular Dickie Dees is panned for its handling of its rumoured merger plans: one lawyer claimed that the firm has "hired a secret consultant" to work on the project, but that she has blown her cover by repeatedly appearing in the office and updating her LinkedIn profile to say what she is up to. And whilst the openness score was boosted by the buzz around the soon-to-be established Leeds office, others were annoyed that it had taken so long, and that "different offices can feel like separate firms". Respondents also complained that internally there is "excessive" red tape and opaque "procedures for everything".



However there was some better news: DD's 63% for work-life balance is a rare bright spot, and gives the firm solid mid-table respectability (at least in this category), a bit like Newcastle United. Lawyers acknowledge that there is some good work ("very decent clients and lawyers"), and one senior associate was taken with the "greater independence and responsibility" compared to a larger London firm. Plus several correspondents said that there were lots of "lovely people" (even if some of the partners are "terrible"), and supposedly the biscuits are "amazing". The "beautiful" view over Newcastle's quayside came in for particular praise, and the social life was described as "great" (surely a given, in the UK's premier party town).

A spokeswoman for Dickinson Dees said "having recently been comprehensively audited and subsequently awarded the Silver Investors in People standard held by the top 2% of UK companies, [the] findings surprise and disappoint us. They also contradict our most recent staff survey completed by over 80% of our people. However we always listen to feedback and strive to improve."

Joining Dickie Dees at the foot of the table are Irwin Mitchell and Macfarlanes. Despite "6pm finishes", Irwin Mitchell was panned for "rock bottom" morale, "terrible" pay and concerns that "rats have been spotted". While Macfarlanes came in for particular opprobrium for "piss poor" communication, "miserable partners" and - worst of all - toilets frequented by a "phantom sh*tter".
 
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Comments

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

I left DD recently, but only becuase I needed to relocate away from the region. I found it was a great firm. Sure, there are things that could be better but that is true of any firm. Last year everyone in the firm was invited to a presentation about future strategy. I found management approachable and visable, unlike other firms I have worked in.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

How I imagine their acceptance speech...

"It's great that Dickinson Dees has been recognised as the worst major firm in the UK.

There's been a lot of hard work put in to get here. In 2010 we spotted that we had the second worst trainee retention rate in the UK (47%). We grafted and in 2011 we had the equal lowest rate (36%). Next year we want to be lower.

We've put in place a number of initiatives to get here. The redundancies the week before Christmas 2010 was a masterstroke. Slashing assistants during the recession to protect under-performing partners was another. Making up a measly 2 partners in 3 years has helped too.

What makes this award all the more meaningful is that the staff voted for us. Thank you"

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

Come on - at least get the facts right. 'Redundancies the week before Christams 2010'. There was ONE so I think you'll find the correct term is 'a redundancy'. Hold the front page - a law firm in Newcastle made one lawyer redundant!

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

According to their own press briefing it was two in the banking team. Redundancies is the plural and therefore would appear appropriate.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

I used to work there and I thought it was a great firm. One of the few firms with approachable management that know where they are going.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

Nope it was "redundancies"...

"Managing partner told Jonathan Blair told The Lawyer: “Dickinson Dees has entered into consultation with staff in its banking team, with a proposal to reduce headcount by two fee-earners in a team of seven."

Loving the "I used to work there" comments from Dickinson Dees PR team. I did actually work there and it was a woeful firm.

I'm told that there's not many partners in the office today. Maybe their unpopularity has finally hit home?

M

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

The best thing I can say about Dickinson Dees is that they don't have a phantom sh*tter.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

In terms of getting the facts right, in the Xmas redundancies they tried to cut 28% of a small team. Then the Head of Banking defected to DWF. So are there 42% less fee earners in that team now?

The whole fee earner issue confuses me. If you look on the Lawyer website in 2005 they had 690 odd fee earners. Now they are at the 300 mark. Did they lose all those fee earners or in 2005 had they adopted a very liberal use of 'fee earner'?

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

I left DD not long ago (when the DD phantom sh*tter stopped, total coincidence), and I agree with the survey. Poor management, poor communication, very little career progression (especially for associates and directors), awful pay at all levels and male domination (not in the seedy way).

Thing is, I genuinely would like them to succeed as most of the people who work there are lovely. Genuinely excellent banter and a good social scene, all helped out by a good work/life balance. If they keep the decent people around they could sort the problems out, but the management is too weak to get rid of the huge amounts of underperforming partners and to make big changes.

Ignore any reference they make to the internal survey, it was a joke...

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

The problem is that very few of the partners are 'lovely people' and the partners are the only people the firm is interested in incentivising (just as well really seeing as there are so many of them). In addition the firm seems hell-bent on spending the maximum possible amount of money on support functions (IT, HR and marketing) which is a shame given that these functions are all hugely overpaid and over-resourced, and hugely ineffectual.

Get rid of the useless matter at the top and there might be a decent firm in there somewhere.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

I'm at Dickie Dees and absolutely LOVE it. My team is fantastic, the support is brilliant and I don't know any terrible partners? The problem seems to me to come from those failed partners who have left the firm because they weren't up to the job! Put your dummies back in boys - using Roll on Friday to get revenge - very brave!

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

1. The uber-positive post above has clearly been written by the PR team at Dickinson Dees. Know your audience - no solicitor would write love in capitals in the middle of a sentence. We know you're being told to write this by the partners.

2. Your premise is flawed because Dickinson Dees hasn't got rid of any under-performing partners. Even during the recession the partners who left either retired or went to better firms (because they weren't the ones under-performing). Whole teams of assistants were jettisoned so the partners didn't feel the problems.

3. Look at the evidence. Voted worst firm by its staff (and without the good biscuits and reasonable toilets it would have been much worse), the lowest trainee retention rates in the UK and very low morale.

Personally I think it's time to drop the name (a tainted brand) and with it 30-40% of the partners, actually promote some good associates and ditch the chocolate tea-pot job of director.



Anonymous 03 Feb 12

I have it on very good authority that the DDs phantom sh*tter wasn't made redundant. He simply left to drop the kids off at the pool.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

Precisely. Get out of the bitter barn, move on and play in the hay. Every firm has its issues, but the management team here genuinely seems to be making efforts to address the problems of the past. Keep your golden turd and give it to a more deserving firm.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

The partners LOVE working at Dickinson Dees.

Everyone else, well.... it would appear they don't.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

Be in absolutely no doubt, Dickinson Dees fully deserves this award.

I feel I can post this now I know the partners will have gone home.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

I left the firm on very good terms and have a soft spot for DD. To simplify the winning of the golden turd and the criticism by staff of the firm as sour grapes is a disservice. People I know still at DD have genuine issues with the partnership, communication and pay. Morale is low in a lot of teams and some partners (obviously not the majority) are awful people. Most of the critics at DD want the firm to progress, as I'm sure you do. Listen to what has been said and things might improve.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

Wonder if their IT team will update their promo.. sorry Wikipedia page so this award is also mentioned?

I too want the firm to get back to the days when it was a firm of gentlemen. Shifting about a third of the partners would help but Blair and Marshall are worth keeping.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

Unless you work at DD, and I assume the likes of annonymous user at 14:35 don't, you don't have any authority to comment. This is a limited survey that presumably can easily be completed by anybody masquerading as an employee. Mistakes were made in the past and there are a number of former employees that love to put the boot in. Fair enough one might say, but it alk gets a bit boring. I work there, I'm not in marketing and I'm not a partner. I'm happy enough as are, from what I can tell, the majority of my colleagues. There are some utterly terrible "big" firms in Newcastle and beyond, but DD certainly isn't one of them. End of story.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

I genuinely did work at DD until quite recently. For the most part I was very sad to go - there are some lovely people there who are very dedicated to their jobs and the firm. Unfortunately, their efforts are continually overlooked and in some teams you don't even get a thank you, let alone a pay rise. The firm's mind set HAS to move away from thinking that it 'pays well for a regional firm' - it doesn't. And yes, whilst there is a work life balance and you can usually get to the P&P for a Friday drink, many of the assistants work the same hours they would if they were in any other city, just without the pay to match it.

Please DD - take note of the Turd award and be nicer to your staff. Start communicating instead of relying on the rumour mill and why not send the odd 'manager' off to learn about people management and common courtesy. You could even consider putting a fair pay structure in place across teams and departments, with pay rises on, say, an annual basis. It keeps folk happy elsewhere.

People = Results right? Go on, they DDeserve it.

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

When people say 'poor pay for a regional firm', what kind of pay are we talking about in terms of a number?

Anonymous 03 Feb 12

I work at DD. Not in PR, nor am I a partner.

I have worked at other firms. They are no better, no worse.

What is infuriating, for those of us who work hard there and enjoy it, is that there is a small band who have failed, left for other firms and carp out of jealousy.

As for the golden turd, ask the ROF team to let you see the methodology and then decide if is is something to be highly regarded.

Anonymous 04 Feb 12

Take it on the chin Dickie Dees. It's arrogant to keep pretending it isn't.

You can't pretend to be surprised when you've shown so little loyalty to staff (unless they are on the letterhead), pay peanuts and tell assistants that it's a privilege to work at a firm founded in 1975 (although you like to tell people it was 200 years old by hanging old documents in the meeting rooms).

The firm is caught in a vicious circle. Too many partners who know they have a job for life. They end up doing work that in a more efficient firm would be passed down. This means associates and assistants don't get necessary experience. The result is annoyed staff who don't develop as quickly as they would in a good structure.

I posted at 14:35. I work for Dickinson Dees. I suspect the person who posted at 15:33 was a partner. Indeed I'm fairly sure I know which one.



Anonymous 04 Feb 12

I feel sorry for Irwins - they're so desperate to improve the reputation, yet mostly too dumb to realise that one of the best ways to do it would be be to pay staff below partner level properly - PEP isn't everything!

Anonymous 04 Feb 12

It's common knowledge that Dickinson Dees isn't a happy ship. These denials and rebuttals are absurd (in particular the jealousy claim - do they understand the word?). If the firm wants to improve then it is time to admit mistakes have been made.

Anonymous 04 Feb 12

I wonder whether Ince & Co are also doing everything they can to convince themselves that the results aren't representative.

Anonymous 04 Feb 12

Disregard the comment about the most recent staff survey. It was taken years ago and is therefore vastly out of date.

Roll On Friday 06 Feb 12

I didn't vote in the poll, but as a former member of staff at Dickinson Dees I'm not particularly surprised that they've won this award.

I should preface my views by saying that I've still got close friends at the firm and that the majority of the staff do a great job. However that shouldn't obscure the problems.

Some of these problems are deep rooted, for example the firm is exceptionally partner heavy and has a very weak HR team. Some of these are cultural, for example I've never been at a firm where the partners play favourites to such an extent.

This poll has highlighted some of the staff's concerns and I would hope the equity partners take it seriously. Whilst they're making these changes they may also want to think about how they build bridges with former staff.

I left the firm on good terms. However within weeks I was told that a partner was telling porkies about my reasons for leaving. I thought this unacceptable, however I'm far from the only person this has happened to - indeed it's almost the M.O. of Dickinson Dees. Local firms joke about it, but I think it reflects very badly on Dickinson Dees.

I am now in-house and occasionally instruct Dickinson Dees. The work I've had so far hasn't been particularly good. I don't know if they still see me as a colleague, but if they are serious about growing as a firm then they need to consistently produce work that impresses their clients.

I wish Dickinson Dees all the best and hope they can resolve these issues.

Anonymous 06 Feb 12

Ward Hadaway are nicer - they made me redundant a couple of weeks after Christmas.

I think the main problem is a structural one about the local market - it, like the general local economy, has been stagnant and public sector dominated for years. Because Newcastle is a trek from anywhere else they are all a little insulated from competition and partners have managed to become wealthy and self important through the good years. They don't want to let that go but also know that longer term there just isn't that much to offer their associates because the market is dying on its arse.

Roll On Friday 07 Feb 12

I used to work for Irwin Mitchell a few years ago, but now work for one their erm... closest competitors(?) if this survey is to be believed. Frankly, working now where I do I'd say there's a good chance that Irwin's should be bottom. This isn't me having sour grapes, I actually got promoted there, probably more through chance than anything else, however morale is generally terrible there, social life is next to nowt save for the Christmas do, the pay is awful (that is probably why there are no salary details on Roll on Friday that I can see) and management is autocratic. They make a lot of money but the goodwill is rarely passed down to staff. The culture is like something you'd find in the 1980s. There are some nice people there, and to any of them who wonder if they are better off elsewhere, I'd say to them that the grass really is greener.

Anonymous 07 Feb 12

I'm told that the York / Leeds office of Dickinson Dees is culturally very different and performing much better than their HQ. The move to Leeds will surely accelerate this progress.

One wonders how much worse these results would have been without the input of staff from the York office? Also how much longer will a better performing office be willing to subsidise inefficiencies in other offices?

Anonymous 08 Feb 12

"Newcastle law firm wins national recognition" is how the Newcastle Journal / Chronicle etc will (probably) cover this story, if they report on this at all.

One of the reasons that Dickinson Dees has been allowed to fall into this state is because the local press doesn't run critical stories relating to this specific firm. This creates the insulating effect talked about in the post above. Most of the Journal's fawning articles start with Dickie Dees self-awarded monicker "Leading Law Firm" and then stick rigidly to Dickinson Dees's self-written press releases. The relationship is so cosy that one of the partners has even been given a column to write.

The reason this article has generated so many comments is because it's so unusual for those based in Newcastle to see an article on Dickinson Dees that calls it as it is. So well done Roll on Friday for demonstrating journalistic integrity and I hope the local press follow your lead.

Roll On Friday 10 Feb 12

Having worked for Dickie dees for a number of years i can't believe how upset they are at getting this award if they took any notice of how bad staff morale is they shouldn't be surprised. Marketing are putting out great responses but that shouldn't be a shocker as there are more overpaid chiefs than indians so they have to earn their money, as they usually waste so much, which would pay the salary for half the support staff. Also talking of chocolate fireguards just how many people do you need in a HR dept? Especially one in a law firm with a specialist employment team?

Anonymous 16 Jun 12

Dickinson Dees were recognised as the worst large firm in Feb 2012 because they were.

What is worrying is that there has not been any heed paid to the results. The same people are doing the same things. An opportunity has been missed.

With one exception. Now if a staff member logs on to ROF, the partners always mention it. Sure it's in a jokey passive aggressive manner, but it's being noted.

Next year I guarantee you DD will get a midtable score. All partners will be voting. The PR team will all be voting. Disgruntled staff will think twice about voting.

Anonymous 17 Jun 12

Have a chat with a DD associate or assistant at the P&P on a Friday night, chances are you'll hear them grumble. Forget the stats, anecdotally they're not a happy bunch.

Anonymous 26 Jun 12

Not a very good firm. However they seem to suffer from a delusion that they're a leading law firm.


Anonymous 17 Oct 12

Hegh. Almost the only verified part of Dickinson Dees Wikipedia entry is that their staff voted them the worst firm in the UK. Oh and that they have offices in Newcastle and Leeds. The rest of what they state is utter rubbish.

What always threw me when I was applying for training contracts was that they opened in York, when everyone else was recognising Leeds as the second biggest legal market in the country. That's like aiming to take over Birmingham and accidentally opening in Warwick. To me, it suggests they feared the competition. Clearly they've recognised their mistake now, but the perception lingers. It doesn't aid them in trying to convince anyone they're a leading law firm who know what they're doing.

What are the rules with the Golden Turd? If they merge with Bond Pearce do both firms get to share it?

Anonymous 06 Feb 13

On 16 June 2012 an Anon poster predicted what would happen in the 2013 survey.

Spot on nostramanus. Dundas have gone. Irwin Mitchell have inherited the Turd. Dickie Dees mid-table after they took practical steps to avoid winning the prize again. That's what (a very, very large) marketing and business development team is paid for.

I predict that the ROF Golden Turd will end up at Bond Dickinson's Fenchurch HQ next year. Leopards don't change their spots.

Anonymous 06 Feb 13

Roll on Friday can state as many times as they like that a firm is awful. However the state of the market these days means that they'll still get 5000 training contract applications.

That's why staff surveys are so vital. Sure they are not perfect but they aid people to make the right decision. They aid people not to make mistakes.

Anonymous 15 Jun 13

Dickie Dees Wikipedia page has had the reference to their golden turd win of 2012 removed.

I guess we live in an Orwellian state after all.

Here was me thinking Bond Pearce was a new start. Same mistakes it would appear.

Anonymous 15 May 14

What a god awful law firm Dickinson Dees was.

Without a doubt they were the worst employers I ever had. Some of the management should be ashamed of themselves. Thank goodness they've been taken over. Let's hope that the people who ran Dickinson Dees into the ground aren't let anywhere near the boardroom in the new firm.

Anonymous 07 Dec 15

RIP Dickinson Dees 1975 - 2013

I see the RoF Survey is open for votes again. One wonders whether the worst firm in 2016, 2017, 2018 etc would ever measure up to Dickie Dees.

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