Law firms haven't traditionally been seen as transparent businesses, with their tendency to shroud salary information in secrecy, lay employees off on the sly and forget to inform staff of future plans (Cobbetts, anyone?). So which firm tops the Firm of the Year survey for openness and which keeps staff in the dark?

It's high fives all round for Ince & Co (86%) which has "very approachable partners" and a "clear vision for future development", which it happily shares with staff. Mishcon scored well too with 81%, although it may be for openness of a more personal kind, as according to one lawyer "there is always some good gossip going around".

Kudos too to Shearmans, where there are "lots of open discussions" and respondents praise the firm's "open door policy" and "genuinely approachable partners" who are "open with associates about the future". And a pat on the back for fifth place Taylor Wessing, which respondents praised for being "an ambitious firm with a sensible and thought out plan" and for having "a clear direction".

And even if Reynolds Porter Chamberlain staffers say "the evangelical RPC propaganda from "internal communications" is starting to wear a little thin", it's obviously working for many as the firm scooped sixth place with 74%. The open plan offices apparently mean "partners aren't hidden away" and "anyone is approachable". According to one trainee RPC is "very transparent - literally in that we inhabit a glass building".

In a year that has seen two failed mergers and rumours of a fractured, warring partnership, it may not be too surprising that Field Fisher Waterhouse landed in bottom spot with a paltry 29%. Respondents moaned about a "lack of transparency", a "lack of openness and honesty with associates" and complained about hearing of plans "in the press before we were told by management". Another complained FFW has "zero plans for the future", adding "I'd rather shoot myself in the face with a harpoon gun than face another year working at FFW!!!". Ouch. Although some believe things are getting better, with partners "open to talking about plans - if you ask."

Watson, Farley & Williams also did poorly with a 33% score, as a result of an "almost tyrannical style of management" and "no transparency". One lawyer complained "We find out about strategy and decisions well after they have been implemented". Whilst at Clarke Willmott (38%) respondents complained "there is no communication from Partners about anything", "each department does things its own way" and "management makes things up as they go along". A lone partner dissented, suggesting the firm was "very open". Perhaps they need to be updated.

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Anonymous 01 February 13 14:38

Taylor Wessing 5th place for openness?! What a complete joke. Management and HR are a bunch of lying despicables covering each other's backs whenever anything flares up.

Anonymous 02 February 13 11:49

Undoubtedly, the FFW partners will try and sweep this under the carpet as comments from former disgruntled employees. Just like they have done previously. They would be wrong. I hope the new management will be much more open, all employees are concerned about their jobs admittedly more so in some departments than others. With a key departure from partnership, they have a great opportunity to display openness in how this situation is managed. It's sad that this is the only method solicitors can feel communicate with the partners in an honest fashion.