It has been another excellent year for Fieldfisher, where turnover has risen by almost a quarter to surpass the £200 million mark for the first time in the firm’s history. Profit per equity partner (PEP) is also up, by 17%, to a hefty £750 million. These strong growth figures follow similarly sharp rises last year.
Last year’s mini-mergers — firms gobbled up by Fieldfisher lately include Birmingham’s Hill Hofstetter and Chinese outfit JS Partners, while a five partner hire from a Dutch firm saw the launch of an Amsterdam office – have been followed by a wave of new office openings in locations including Bologna, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Shanghai and Guangzhou. In the UK, meanwhile, the firm has recently opened a new support centre in Belfast. Fieldfisher now has 22 offices – more than double the number it had a couple of years ago.
The good news for trainees and junior lawyers at the firm is that work/life balance remains some of the best in corporate law. Across the London, Manchester and Birmingham offices rookies work on average less than nine and a half hours a day, starting on average at 9:08am and finishing at 6:33pm. “They do not expect people to work late or weekends and encourage outside interests,” we are told, “however, when busy it is busy”. The firm’s core dispute resolution practice area is seen as more conducive to stable hours than its finance group, but it’s a lot more reasonable than at many rivals.
Fieldfisher performs creditably in other aspects of the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19. Training “varies by department but is generally excellent”, while work at times sees trainees “pushed to the limit” of their abilities. The supervision is generally pretty good, with partners who are “not stuffy at all”. A healthy mix of secondments is also appreciated. According to our figures, nearly 20% of Fieldfisher trainees and junior lawyers do an international placement or spend time abroad with the firm, while 13% do a client secondment. Locations for the former include the firm’s Silicon Valley office. The standout client secondments are apparently the BBC and Viacom. “I went to Viacom for six months as part of my second seat and worked across the legal departments for MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon,” one trainee reports.
Not that trainees are desperate to leave Fieldfisher’s offices, which overall received an A in our survey. The jewel in the crown is undoubtedly London, located on the north bank of the Thames beside London Bridge. The terraces running around it have spectacular river views – and unlike at some firms are used regularly thanks to a daily morning fitness class held on the 9th floor balcony. Rumour has it that the firm is considering leaving its Manchester base – which has no canteen – for new space elsewhere in the city.
Where Fieldfisher performs less well is on rookie salaries, which may well come under pressure this year amid those impressive wider financial results. £63,000 for a newly qualified solicitor in London is towards the lower end of the market for firms in FF’s class. However, grumbles about technology have subsided. A new time recording system that had been unpopular has now been bedded in and teething problems resolved, while new investments in practice management software, such as LexisOne, have won thumbs up.
Rounding off the Fieldfisher experience are some of the best food-based perks that you are likely to encounter. Free brownies, cakes and ice cream are regularly disseminated around the firm. The coffee, meanwhile, is apparently as good as anything you’d find in the more gentrified parts of Hackney.