US firms continue their reign at the top of the table, with Firm of the Year 2014 Latham & Watkins pulverising the competition with a 96% score for its training and career progression.

Lathams will "pay for any and all external training you want to do", says one associate. Another cites the "great experience and responsibility" they enjoy compared to Magic Circle peers, as well as the pleasures of being "treated like adults" and getting their own offices. Others share the view of the lawyer who says they are "more likely to spontaneously combust than make partner", but the money seems to be an effective opiate.

Kirkland & Ellis, Shearman & Sterling and Jones Day make it an all-American quartet at the top of the table, with Jones Day's unusual non-rotational trainee system singled out for praise ("a far better education in City law", says a trainee) and criticism ("there's a good reason no one else does a non-rotational system, it's shit", says an NQ). It's all unicorns and sunshine over at Kirkland, except for one lawyer who says the "completely opaque" career path "seems to depend on fellatio as the main appraisal criterion. I will be leaving soon".

The highest UK entry is Browne Jacobson, which comes fifth with an excellent 82% score, followed by Bird & Bird, whose lawyers rate the "good opportunities for foreign secondments" and the "excellent" training.

    An excellently-trained Bird yesterday 

But it's not all team-building and promotions. This year respondents from lots of firms echoed the Macfarlanes lawyer who says partnership prospects are "less than zero". At Dentons, one senior associate says the chances of being made up feel "non-existent". At DLA Piper, a lawyer says "partnership in the regions is now a fantasy pursued by many but achieved by few". Many criticise their firms for making lateral hires at the expense of home-grown talent, like the Taylor Wessing associate who says the firm "regularly takes a punt on lateral hires with little business case, instead of promoting from within".

It is a sorry story at the bottom of the table. Staff at Clarke Willmott hand it a dismal 31% score, calling its training programme an "embarrassment" where partners "randomly talk about topics like 'how to record more time' or 'how I poached clients from my former firm'". Another says it's difficult to get good expericence because "egotistical partners won't refer work to the right team", and do it themselves instead.

Golden Turd winner Parabis comes second bottom with 36%. Its structure, says one staffer, "is an incentive for anyone with ambition to leave". There is "absolutely no career development available", say another, and "no desire amongst staff to promote from within". The most vitriol, though, is reserved for Olswang, which languishes fourth from bottom with 43%, and where "turning experienced litigators back into bundle monkeys seems to be their idea of career development". Many of the junior lawyers "spend their time on all fours", says another associate, "licking up the slimy smugness of partners in the hope of also becoming a complete arse". There's no rest further up the ladder, either, since mid-level associates are "so competitive that you have to regularly check your cup of tea just in case one of them has dropped rat poison into it".
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