The Legal Cheek View
Corporate law firms often struggle to differentiate themselves, but Burges Salmon genuinely stands out from the crowd with a model that sees it do a large amount of City of London work mostly from Bristol.
With profit per equity partner up this year by 7% to £523,000, and revenue rising a similar proportion to £87.4 million, the numbers signal that this approach is working nicely. Equally as important, the firm is a very pleasant place to be, with Burges Salmon bagging some of the highest scores in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey for training, quality of work, culture and work-life balance.
Rookies are said to benefit from a diet of work that is up a notch from most firms – including some of the magic circle – with a system that sees training contracts split across six departments rather than the usual four. Allied to a prevailing organisational niceness, this makes Burges Salmon a really good place to start out, current trainees tell us.
To add to the utopian vibe, Burges Salmon has one of the most delightful offices out there – nestled on the river less than five minutes from Temple Meads station, from which London (where the firm has a smaller office) is an hour and 45 minutes away. What's more, the Bristol canteen is apparently better than many top restaurants. A weekly 'cake trolley' augments the culinary experience. And even the firm coffee is said to be nice.
"The food is incredible and the staff are so friendly and helpful. It's difficult to stay away..." gushes one insider.
The downside to working for a firm with just two offices is of course international secondment opportunities. While these are not unheard of at Burges Salmon – there are arrangements in place for a small proportion of trainees to spend time at affiliate firms and clients in Brussels and Paris – they are relatively rare.
Pay is also less than London levels, but trainee and newly qualified salaries (see below for details) are among the highest of any regional law firm. And lawyers tend to get away from the office by 6-7pm in the evenings, with weekends and late nights "very few and far between". It's also worth noting that Burges Salmon has among the lowest commute times, with a higher proportion of its junior lawyers walking to work than any other major UK law firm.