Irwin Mitchell

The Legal Cheek View

One of the first big law firms to become an Alternative Business Structure (which allows non-lawyers to be partners), Irwin Mitchell has a reputation for innovation and business-savvy. But over the last few years the national giant – which has 11 offices across the UK – has been concentrating on the rather more traditional pastime of gobbling up smaller firms as it aims for scale. Specifically, Irwin Mitchell has been building up a private client practice (AKA advising very rich people), following the acquisitions of Mayfair’s Berkeley Law and multi-office South East firm Thomas Eggar.

This strategy has seen IM create three key practice areas: corporate, personal injury and private client. They are divided across six sectors: manufacturing, technology, financial services, real estate, education and consumer services. Some teams have a distinct identity, say insiders, with the feedback from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18 indicating that the trainee experience at the firm can be very different according to which seat you find yourself in.

As one rookie puts it: “The training varies greatly between different departments. In some I was given regular training sessions in matters which were directly relevant to the work I was/am carrying out. However in others the training was essentially ‘on the job’ and gained through experience and asking individual supervising solicitors to explain aspects of the work.”

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The quality of work is similarly mixed – but of generally a high standard. “Supervisors are willing to give high degrees of responsibility if you demonstrate you can handle it” – which can mean some fascinating (and harrowing) stuff for those doing a seat in IM’s market-leading personal injury team, in particular.

IM’s London office in the Holborn/City borders is the scene of much of the corporate action, and is very much what you would expect from a City law firm, minus the international network. Meanwhile, the Sheffield office – which is the firm’s headquarters – is the nerve centre for the wide-ranging personal injury practice that IM is probably best known for. It’s also home to a regional corporate team which handles some high profile national deals. Private client is split across a range of locations in West London and the South.

What unifies this all is a down-to-earth culture that isn’t great for perks (“biscuit and Fruit Wednesdays” seem to be the highlight) but is good on reducing hierarchies. There is a “complete open door policy,” one of the firm’s young lawyers tells us, “as it would have to be, with an open plan office.” And the work-life balance is fantastic with an enviable average leave the office time of 6:05pm.

Still, a bit more effort from the powers that be on things like coffee (IM’s is apparently terrible) and canteens (not all of the offices have one) would go a long way to boosting morale. Happily there are trainee-organised socials, like Friday drinks at local pubs, that go some way to filling the gap. And perhaps this approach is more IM anyway. As one tipster tells us: “I wouldn’t expect my job at a corporate law firm to be the source of a banging night out.”

Deadlines

Summer Work Placements

Applications open 01/11/2017
Applications close 15/01/2018

Training contracts

Applications open 01/11/2017
Applications close 30/06/2018

Insider Scorecard

A
Training
A
Quality of work
A
Peer support
B
Partner approach-ability
A*
Work/life balance
C
Tech
B
Perks
B
Office
N/a
Canteen
B
Social life

Insider Scorecard Grades range from A* to D and are derived from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18 of over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at the leading law firms in the UK.

Money

First year trainee salary £36,000
Second year trainee salary £38,000
Newly qualified salary £60,000
Profit per equity partner £571,000
GDL grant 4,500
LPC grant 4,500

Trainee salaries outside London start at £25,000, rising to £27,000 for second year trainees. Regional newly qualified solicitor pay ranges from £34,000 to £39,000.

Hours

Average arrival time 8:37am
Average leave time 6:05pm
Annual target hours No targets
Annual leave 25 days

Secondments

Chances of secondment abroad 0%
Chances of client secondment 6%

General Info

Training contracts 45
Latest trainee retention rate 80%
Offices 11
Countries 1
Minimum A-level requirement AAB
Minimum degree requirement 2:1

Diversity

UK female associates 74%
UK female partners 34%
UK BME associates 12%
UK BME partners 5%

Universities Current Trainees Attended

The Firm In Its Own Words