Seventeen firms were scored between a middling 50% and a satisfied 74% for culture in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2020 survey.
"Very few genuine arseholes in positions of power" at DLA Piper (74%) according to a senior lawyer, "following the recent 'values refresh'". The lawyer said he "asked a head of department if a partner would now be shown the door in the event that a verifiable me-too incident occurred. Potentially naive of me, but I believed him when he said yes." Another senior lawyer said "the firm is preaching a culture of values - be collaborative, be exceptional, be supportive, be bold." Although he believed it was "a bit artificial" as "the firm is not dealing with partners who are completely not aligned with the values. In this regard, it seems that annual revenue is more important than truly living up to the values."
At Plexus Law (73%) a female lawyer criticised the firm's culture: "The Manchester party says it all. It's not the first time and it won't be the last. They don't take these things seriously at all." A partner said the firm was "riddled with cliques corruption and lecherous managers". A junior lawyer gave Plexus a good rating for culture, with the caveat, "but then, I'm not in the Manchester office..."
"The old Ince culture has remained post-merger, which is a good thing" said a senior lawyer at Ince Gordon Dadds (72%). A junior lawyer said "people remain friendly and open. However, so many people work from home/are sent on secondment that on most days the office feels like a ghost town."
A lawyer at Allen & Overy (70%) said "people have each others backs when the heat is on." Although a number of the business services staff complained of a culture of "us and them" when it came to dealing with the firm's lawyers. "Downton Abbey culture. Mixing or socialising would taint their wannabe royal blood," said one respondent, "it's quite sad as we are all human after all."
One Bishops Square
"It is genuinely the least stuffy of the magic circle, but that doesn't mean people are normal" said a senior lawyer at Clifford Chance (70%). A junior lawyer said "jurisdictions often treated like personal fiefdoms of partners in transnational departments. Associates caught in the cross-fire of internecine partner warfare."
"Overall the firm's culture is great in that it (still) doesn't seek to impose a nefarious set of shared corporate values," said a junior lawyer at Slaughter and May (70%) adding "the brand is still we have no brand." A trainee said "the standards are astronomical but the culture of upholding them is surprisingly relaxed - everyone seems to have faith that everyone else will pull their weight." A junior lawyer said "the recent decision to ban ski trips and cut down on alcohol suggests that the firm does not trust its employees to act in an appropriate way at work events and is a misguided attempt to show that it is doing something." A junior lawyer said "partners can be infuriatingly out of touch but generally the firm employs nice people."
"Partners' meetings involve having lunch and a laugh with a group of people I consider friends" said a partner at Ashurst (66%) "Not too dissimilar from lunchtimes at the senior common room at school." A trainee said "Great culture - the people truly are fantastic at their jobs without being complete dicks (which is obviously rare in the City)." Although there may not be uniformity across all offices, as a partner outside of the UK said "in my country, the present culture is no comparison to the glorified Ashurst culture that our website and brochures boast about. We are performing quite well, but our culture is stuck way back in the 90s."
"On a downward path to commoditised McDonalds law - offering a cheap burger in every town" said a junior lawyer at Dentons (65%). Another member of staff said the firm "needs to get agile working and correct collaborative technology systems in place". But another junior lawyer said the culture was "pretty good" as "the partner defections have dried up and there's a bit more of a united front across the UK and Scotland offices."
At Norton Rose Fulbright (61%) many respondents commented on a change of culture at the firm. A senior lawyer said the culture was "good but could be better (and used to be)." Another said "the firm that many of us joined seems to have largely disappeared." A colleague said "the legal market is changing- it has been a difficult juggling act to retain our culture alongside a five-year programme to gear us up for these changes".
"Aside from recent scandals" said a staffer at Baker McKenzie (60%), "the partners are actually nice, actual humans and I think there may be very few dicks/robots here." However, a junior lawyer said "partners can get away with anything, including outright harassment and bullying. HR's sole job seems to focus on ensuring nobody speaks up about inappropriate behaviour and just ignoring any abuse. The firm signs up to a number of initiatives and charters to improve its public profile but doesn't actually care internally."
"Very cliquey. If you are not in the right team then you are stuffed," said a senior lawyer at HFW (59%). One lawyer said that it was an "old fashioned firm with a lot of dinosaurs and cranky people" but there were "some decent people coming through the ranks". Another lawyer said it "differs through the departments I think, but in Shipping, we do world class work which attracts world class people who typically have a real interest in the sector. That's infectious and gives the department enthusiasm and energy."
"There's not a consistent culture, it varies hugely from group to group based on the individual partners," said a junior lawyer at Kirkland & Ellis (59%). One lawyer said "some genuine psychopaths and irredeemable shaggers floating about, but my team are wholesome, bordering on dull. Which is pretty much what you want from colleagues."
At Linklaters (57%) a senior lawyer said "it's quite brutal in some senses, but if it's right for you, you fly. There is a real mix of people here, and at least my team is very diverse - but I wouldn't necessarily want to be a shy, retiring personality here, or be someone who has fallen out of favour with the partners." A colleague said "this whole focus on bad drinking culture is a bit weird and makes us all look like we are children who aren't responsible for our own actions." A senior lawyer said "programmes on D&I are useful like a hole in the head. As a matter of course, firms are getting more diverse. Pretending to actively supporting this is a lie, since the only law in a law firm is making money."