Just five firms scored less than 50% for career development in the RollOnFriday Firm of the Year 2020 survey.
"While personally I am on a track to promotion", said a junior solicitor at Clyde & Co (49%), "I have seen senior members of staff shafted, and the process to becoming partner can only be described as chasing a set of goalposts which are being dragged to different positions every year faster than Usain Bolt".
Freshfields (49%) was the worst-performing Magic Circle firm when it came to satisfaction with career development. "Good training and exposure. Work with (and learn from) extremely capable people", said a lawyer there. "If you want to end up in-house there is no better place to be". But "nobody understands the career milestones system", said a peer. "We'd all reached a tacit acceptance that it was effectively arbitrary", they said, "in the sense that you'd be promoted through the system every other year (mysteriously being ‘at expectations’ every non-promotion year and then ‘above expectations’ the next). But now, particularly at senior associate level, it seems to be used to hold associates back at the department's convenience".
"Poor choices, opaque and lack of support. Very cliquey", said a solicitor at HFW (48%). Career development was "Bordering on non existent to ... Well, non existent, especially for women", said a woman at the firm. "Better to sit tight and jump when possible", said a colleague. There was a "small group of people" who were supported, she conceded, "but everyone else is shafted".
"We have new HR guidelines which are all about being promoted when you're ready, not when you hit a certain level of PQE", said a junior solicitor at Blake Morgan (43%), but, "It hasn't changed anything in practice". There were "Too many parked people above me", complained a lawyer, hence, "Little or no chance of progression". "The partner I report to is parked and has been for years", said a colleague, "In a small department, this means we are all caught up in the traffic". "Rut, what rut?" said a senior solicitor. "I'm beginning to see how poor the work here really is", said a trainee. "Debt recovery? That's what I spent years training for?"
"I'm being promoted, wahey!"
But all four of those firms still scored almost 50%, which was a neutral score. Only PI giant Slater and Gordon dropped lower than 25%, indicating that respondents were mainly dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with their career development. "Training used to be good", said a senior solicitor, "however it is now limited as the training team has mainly been made redundant". That will present a problem.
"Micro-managed and death by tick box management. all the decent people left in 2017", said a colleague. "No one good left here to learn from", said another solicitor. "It is nearly the end of our financial year and the process for promotion still has not been seen", complained a lawyer at the Golden Turd. "What other firms operate in this way? None, surely".