The Legal Cheek View
These are tough times for Simmons & Simmons. After the Brexit vote the firm announced that it was to make a number of its London lawyers redundant. The news came shortly before Simmons revealed that it would be retaining just 50% of its trainees. And this figure is far from an outlier – in spring the firm hung on to just 54% of its new qualifiers. There was also bad news in June when Simmons announced that it was axing its bespoke masters in business administration course (MBA) that it used to offer to trainees in conjunction with BPP University Law School.
All firms go through difficult patches, and it’s likely that at some point Simmons will bounce back. But right now it seems an uncertain place in which to begin your career – and there must be serious doubts about the firm’s capacity to continue taking on 38 trainees each year in view of those dreadful retention results. Insiders mutter darkly about a “post Brexit austerity era”, while grumblings about some “awful” senior lawyers hint at internal tensions. It can’t help that profit per equity partner is down 10% this year from £650,000 to £585,000.
However, look underneath the bonnet of Simmons’ most recent financial results and you’ll see that revenue is actually up, with the profitability falls caused by the cost of expansion in the firm’s Bristol and Luxembourg offices, and a rise in lawyer headcount in Asia. So the seeds of recovery may already have been sown.
The bottom line is that Simmons & Simmons remains a successful business with a well-regarded finance practice and highly-rated specialisms in employment, intellectual property and life sciences. The firm’s 22 offices in 15 countries also give trainees a reasonable shot of an international secondment, with Hong Kong one of the most popular destinations.