They won’t quite drop everything just to see you smile, but they’re certainly very nice
With their rapier-like commercial instincts and million pound earnings, corporate law firm partners aren’t a category of people known for their niceness.
But perhaps society has got it all wrong, because partners scored consistently highly for their approachability in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. Of the nearly 60 firms surveyed, 16% received an A* grade for this category, 64% an A, 18% a B and just 2% a C.
The 1,500+ top UK law firm trainees and junior lawyers who responded to the survey were asked to rank their partner approachability on a 1-10 sliding scale, with one defined as ‘I have yet to come within 100 metres of one’ and ten as ‘They will drop everything — including a multi-client conference call — just to see me smile’. They were also encouraged to write comments, several of which we have included below.
In no particular order, the firms which bagged A*s are…
At RPC the open plan office and “mixed pods” mean that trainees can find themselves sitting alongside the firm’s managing partner. Little wonder, then, that the firm is among the top scoring for partner approachability.
The lack of physical walls sets the tone for a culture that is one of the least hierarchical in the City. Questions are said to be “positively encouraged”, with instruction coming from all angles. “Even if your supervisor isn’t around there are always people who can point you in the right direction,” reports another insider.
To top it all off, RPC’s bosses are so relaxed they even allow trainees to run an uncensored Twitter account that provides often disarmingly honest insights into life in the law.
RPC profile [Legal Cheek Most List]
Shearman & Sterling
OK, so there are doors at Shearman & Sterling — unlike RPC, the firm isn’t open plan — but they largely remain open.
“We’re always reminded that there’s an open door policy and I never hesitate to drop by if I have something to ask or say,” reports one London-based Shearman rookie.
Of course, many firms claim to have an “open door policy” while often in reality it can prove to be merely a token gesture. What marks Shearman & Sterling out from the crowd is the relative informality that pervades its corridors, with the firm’s young (and young at heart) partners tending towards the cool metropolitan type rather than the fusty solicitor caricature sometimes found elsewhere in London.
Shearman & Sterling profile [Legal Cheek Most List]
Baker & McKenzie
Fancy a natter about topics other than the state of the M&A market? Well, Baker & McKenzie chiefs are happy to oblige.
“You can approach partners here to discuss work issues, but also to talk about plans for the weekend or last night’s football match,” one trainee tells us. “It’s an office run by very down to earth and likable people in the main.”
But when the conversation moves on from Arsenal’s latest game to matters professional, fear not, the Bakers partners’ interest remains just as keen. “If you ask a question, they will answer it without making you feel silly,” another tipster tells us. Indeed, one insider was so enthused that they proclaimed: “My supervisor is wonderful — supportive, interested and inspiring!”
Baker & McKenzie profile [Legal Cheek Most List]
Trowers & Hamlins
Big enough to offer 23 training contracts annually and a high chance of doing an international secondment thanks to a large presence in the Middle East, but small enough to have a “really good and friendly work environment”.
Trowers also benefits from its strong regional UK presence, with the firm’s Manchester, Birmingham and Exeter offices said to be particularly “tight knit”.
The approachability of the firm’s partners has its roots in a culture that values work-life balance and quality of work for trainees to a greater extent than many rival firms. “Everyone is keen to help you,” one insider tells us.
Trowers & Hamlins profile [Legal Cheek Most List]
A consistent high scorer in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, Osborne Clarke is managing to maintain its laid back nature as it grows into a larger corporate player with an expanding international network.
For “incredibly busy and stressed lawyers”, the firm’s partners remain “extremely approachable”. One insider tells us: “I’ve never been made to feel that I can’t approach anyone if I have a question and, more often than not, people will always take five minutes out to talk through an issue, regardless of how busy they are.”
Another claims: “I can be honest with them and most importantly, make fun of them!”
Osborne Clarke profile [Legal Cheek Most List]
Another firm that’s big enough to offer plentiful opportunities but small enough to be nice, Fieldfisher benefits from a “really supportive environment from senior partner down to paralegal”.
The mix of northern affability (the firm has a sizeable Manchester office) and London charm seems to be another factor behind Fieldfisher’s friendliness.
Indeed, some trainees reckon that Legal Cheek’s sliding scale of partner approachability (with a ten defined as ‘They will drop everything — including a multi-client conference call — just to see me smile”) is met literally by some members of the firm.
“Absolutely, your option for a score of 10 is spot on,” says one rookie.
Fieldfisher profile [Legal Cheek Most List]
Travers Smith has a system where trainees share a room with a partner and an associate in lots of little microcosms of law firm life.
The effect is that “any fear tends to dissipate fairly quickly”, as cohabitation quickly strips bosses of their mystique. “They’re all pretty human,” observes one trainee. Another adds that the set up “sets the tone of the culture at the top and allows it to filter down throughout the firm”.
Still, while Travers’ partners may be approachable, they’re also very hard-working (the £1.02 million profit per equity partner doesn’t generate itself). As such, the firm’s model relies on an ease and familiarity between its different generations. Partners are “normally very busy but will generally make time for you where possible”, reports another insider.
Travers Smith profile [Legal Cheek Most List]
Did you really think famously lovely Bristows wouldn’t be in the mix for most approachable partners? These people are genuinely nice — they allow juniors to leave the office just after 6:30pm every day, which is pretty incredible for a London corporate law firm!
The Bristows head honchos are also smart, creating an organisation that is high in sophistication and maturity thanks to a policy of hiring older staff members, like masters and PhD grads, many of whom have a science background. Being approachable is easy when you don’t have clueless 22-year-olds knocking on your door.
Bristows profile [Legal Cheek Most List]
The high levels of responsibility that TLT encourages its trainees and junior lawyers to take on sets the tone for a firm that is decidedly light on hierarchies.
“Trainees are really valued and treated as part of the team,” one of them tells us. Another expresses a similar sentiment: “Partners and associates always have time to answer questions and take an interest in trainee development across the office.”
TLT’s open plan offices ensure that approachability is also facilitated in a literal sense. Expect to be treated if not quite as equals by partners but pretty much as close to it as you will get in a law firm.
TLT profile [Legal Cheek Most List]
You can access all of our law firm profiles through the Legal Cheek Most List.
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