Osborne Clarke “may be possibly the nicest and most down to earth law firm ever,” one insider tells Legal Cheek, “but you still have to work hard”. That statement is a pithy summary of OC, which is currently on a journey from respected regional firm to international player. As it opens more offices – the latest is in Shanghai via a link with local firm Zhang Yu & Partners, and follows last year’s openings in San Francisco and Amsterdam – Osborne Clarke has so far managed to preserve the famously nice culture that prevails within it.
The firm scores a whopping seven A*s in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18, with top marks for training, quality of work, peer support, partner approachability, work/life balance, tech savvy and social life.
Training is thoughtfully delivered and extremely thorough. One OC trainee reports: “Not only is there a lot of formal training, but we can ask for training on pretty much anything we feel we need. There is department training, sector training and team training, and also training run by and for junior lawyers and trainees.” The work features a lot of client contact. “Once team members are confident in your ability, they are happy for you to contact clients – I have organised a meeting with a client on my own, and then worked from their offices afterwards,” another OC rookie tells us. But be prepared for plenty of standard trainee tasks too, such as amending precedents and document review. Hours vary between teams, but the average 8:49am arrival time and 6:35pm leave time are eminently reasonable for corporate law.
Trainees – who socialise between the offices in firm-organised meet-ups – describe each other as “lovely”, while they reckon partners are about as nice as they come for people burdened by the demands of running a £200 million business. The firm’s open plan offices seem to help in this respect, breaking down some of the stereotypical law firm hierarchies. As one Osborne Clarke rookie tells us: “I can be honest with them and, most importantly, make fun of them!”
What’s more, with the firm habitually clocking up strong retention rates, even the aforementioned joker is likely to end up with a full-time job at the end of the training process.
Money varies (see below) between the trio of UK offices in London, Reading and Bristol. The lower newly qualified solicitor pay outside the capital is made up for by the “brand new and awesome” building in Reading, while the “light, airy, modern” Bristol office is always a popular place to be based. Four consecutive years of financial growth – OC’s revenue rose from £205.9 million to £213.6 million this year on the back of a series of sharp rises since 2013 – has left the firm well-resourced and ready to respond to any upward pressure on salaries.
Added glitz is provided by the firm’s technology and media practices, which augment the much larger corporate and litigation teams, and represent, among others, Facebook and Amazon. These ties have helped to ensure that OC is one of the most tech-savvy UK law firms. One insider tells us: “The firm has a massive focus on tech. Our sectors tend to focus on tech, and so it makes sense that those at the top of the firm are tech savvy and this filters down.”
Perks, meanwhile, range from the usual package of subsidised gym membership and private health insurance to, er, green tea. “We finally got green tea in the office kitchens. That was the greatest triumph,” reveals an OC tipster. Another highlight is the free pass to Bristol zoo. However, the lack of a canteen in the London office is a notable bugbear.
Social life is excellent. There are “cracking” summer and Christmas parties and “often something going on, whether it is sport, client events, team or departmental drinks”, alongside lots of spontaneous get togethers, and also planned socials. “The trainees are really good friends and regularly hang out outside of work,” another OCer says.
What you won’t get at OC is an international trainee secondment, nor, at a firm that likes to train its new recruits itself, are client secondments very numerous. However, we understand that there are opportunities at associate level for junior lawyers to fly the nest.