Last and least in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year Survey 2019 for culture were firms that staff accused of humouring quarrelling partners and a sense of aimlessness.

Infighting was rife at the poor-performing firms, according to respondents. At Norton Rose Fulbright (53%) a lawyer said there was "open warfare between partners" - although "associates get along". A Norton Rose Fulbright lawyer said that recent mergers were to blame for a "cultural shift in the last few years". The hitherto friendly atmosphere was being "eroded" by "the relentless focus on profitability and billing", he said.  A junior solicitor said the firm was "very confused...It's worse than your neighbour going through a mid-life crisis who just bought himself some spicy new wheels". 


Oh hai, fancy a merger?

At HFW (56%)  "there really is nothing collaborative" about the "bunch of sole practitioners" at the firm, said a solicitor. "Partners will go to great lengths", she said, "to steal each others' work and keep other partners out of deals they should be on". As a result, "it makes it difficult as a mid-level associate to progress and is difficult to tolerate". Another lawyer at HFW also took aim at squabbing seniors poisoning the atmosphere. "Partner behaviour at the equity partner level is very poor and this spills down", he said. "They are very rude to one another and to associates and others." 

The firm's top tier was also blamed at Shoosmiths (41%) where a partner claimed that the firm's leadership had a negative impact on its culture. While his team "is amazing and the level of trust and collaboration is impressive", the management and partnership council "are breathtakingly incompetent". He said the firm's strategy was no longer branded as "business improvement" which he felt was "on the basis that they expect the business to deteriorate rather than improve".

Culture bottom

With all the recent changes, life at this year's Golden Turd winner Ince Gordon Dadds (40%) was described by one member of staff as "a roller coaster", but perhaps not one of the fun ones. 

At BLM (51%) a junior lawyer lambasted the firm for trying to "manufacture" a culture. "No one is happy being there", they said, claiming that "sad xmas jumper days" weren't "going to cut it". A colleague said the firm was afflicted with an incredible shrinking Christmas part, which had "gone from The Hilton two years ago to some grotty cocktail bar this year".

At bottom of the league Watson Farley & Williams (25%), an NQ felt that the firm's culture was disintegrating. It "can't seem to decide what sort of firm it is", he said. "Are we a firm that beasts its lawyers but they get extremely well paid? Or where the work life balance makes up for comparatively lower remuneration?" The conclusion: "at the moment it's the worst of both worlds". A WFW solicitor said "we had a reputation as a small, collegiate firm, but since the financials have been sinking, that culture has been tossed out the window in favour of a more cutthroat environment".


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Anonymous 22 March 19 11:48

"What on earth is happening at NRF" - well, there's basically been a bad case of rising damp for about three to four years now, but no one in management has noticed or bothered to do anything about it. As a consequence, everyone is now cold, the wallpaper is peeling off the walls and it will be very difficult to fix without a lot of time, effort and expense. 

Anonymous 22 March 19 12:04

"There's a certain type of person who is 'Mills & Reeve'" said one lawyer, "they don't have an agenda and they aren't arrogant". An NQ said "obviously you're never going to get on with everyone" but that she was "yet to meet anybody genuinely not nice".

This could have been said about NRF until fairly recently, but it seems that's just not true anymore.

Anonymous 22 March 19 13:28

Wtf is hapoening at Poosmiths? Looks like they've been getting a shoeing, you wouldn't trust the management to tie up their own laces. Still, the boot's on the other foot now.

Anonymous 22 March 19 17:16

I heard they've shaken things up a bit within the Management Board/Partnership Council at Shoosmiths recently.  Some new faces appointed - so maybe not all bad and maybe the tide is now starting to turn...

Exex-WF 23 March 19 06:53

WFW used to be well-respected for what it did  but is now full of listless partners and has become lost, impotent and rather pointless in the current saturated and competitive market.

Anonymous 24 March 19 11:54

25%, is that a joke?  If not, it's insane.  Why would anyone stay?  They must have done a lot better in the other measures though not to be the turd.

Anonymous 25 March 19 08:41

Just seen that new CEO of Shoosmiths is "Simon Boss". Nominative determinism at its finest. 

Still @ WFW 25 March 19 09:23

I find it surprising that people feel that WFW is rudderless. Why, only a few months ago I attended a presentation on the newly developed Energy strategy by the two co-heads. Afterwards, people were buzzing in the hallways about it: "THAT's the strategy?" 

Anonymous 25 March 19 16:35

25%, is that a joke?  If not, it's insane.  Why would anyone stay?

They're not. Partners and associates are leaving WFW in a steady stream, the leaving drinks are killing my liver.

Anonymous 25 March 19 22:30

I'm surprised NRF even scored this highly for culture. Large majority of partners disinterested in their associates at best; manipulative demons at the worst.

Anonymous 29 March 19 14:34

"Is there any actual effect of all this at NRF?  Are associates leaving?" - The answer to that is yes. Mass exodus across the firm

Anon 05 April 19 08:37

Apparently PAs at WFF are bulk-buying “Sorry you’re leaving” card

It won't be long now before Watson Farley returns to its roots of being just a small maritime law firm

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