Dog-eat-dog or vegan commune?
We asked over 2,000 trainees and junior lawyers at the leading corporate law firms how supportive their peers are.
Contrary to the popular backstabbing City stereotype, the results were pretty good, with none of the 61 featured firms scoring below a B in this category of the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18.
Some, however, did rather better than others — with ten standout performers bagging an A*. In alphabetical order, they are…
Bird & Bird
The trainee cohort at Bird & Bird is described as “more of a group of friends than colleagues”. As one rookie says of his work pals: “They’re a great bunch of people.”
What’s the secret behind the kinship?
Look no further than Two Birds’ legendary mini World Cup football tournament, which sees teams from across the firm’s 28 international offices come together to battle it out in a festival of firm bonding. As you would expect, the footie is optional, with most just enjoying the opportunity to “meet international colleagues over a weekend of partying”. This year’s event was held in The Hague.
Read Bird & Bird’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
As a firm with a single office and a small intake of just ten trainees a year, nurturing a supportive work environment comes naturally for Bristows.
As one trainee puts it: “The small trainee community is very close-knit.” With fewer people to work with, here’s hoping you get along with most of them. But if you’re a good fit, you’ll be part of a selected cohort that “all work really well as a team”.
What’s more, fellow trainees know how to take one for the team. They “are happy to help each other out when one of us is busier”, an insider tells us. Another confirms that “there’s always people to lend a helping hand when one of us is swamped with work”.
Because of Bristows’ focus on IP work, a good handful of its trainees have science PhDs to their name. This common ground could be why they gel so easily.
Read Bristows’ full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
With all of the firm’s approximately 60 trainees based in Burges Salmon’s delightful Bristol office, which is set around a light-filled central atrium, this is a place where everyone knows each other.
Trainees are encouraged to move beyond their desks, and interact with colleagues. With many living relatively near each other, and even walking to work together, there’s almost a university vibe.
But Burges Salmon is a hard-working place too, with a reputation for being the elite firm in Bristol. Certainly its culture can be more City than West Country at times. This is where the strength of the trainees’ ties comes into its own.
One rookie tells us that their peers “are very friendly and will step in to help out if we are very busy”.
Read Burges Salmon’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Despite running into some trouble as of late, with some disappointing financial results and rumours of a merger swirling, spirits remain high at the junior end of Liverpool-based international outfit Hill Dickinson.
A supportive work culture is just what it needs to pull through tough times. Luckily, the trainee cohort really gets along.
Trainees are “so supportive and we get on so well that I have to keep reminding myself that I’m in direct competition with some of them”, jokes one. Another tells us that “everyone I work with is lovely and supportive — from partners to paralegals”.
Note that although “everyone is friendly”, sometimes that “depends on their mood”. Peer support might not be as readily available on a grey Monday morning…
But mostly it’s “easy to go for drinks whenever you want”, with camerarderie aided by “3 or 4 firm wide events a year” as well as monthly “pay day drinks” to celebrate the hard work.
Read Hill Dickinson’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Mills & Reeve
Despite a reported lack of “proper coffee” at Mills & Reeve, its trainees remain cheery. Indeed, the “tub of Nescafe instant” available at most of the firm’s offices has perhaps contributed to forging a Blitz spirit among the M&R young.
As one rookie tells us, “the teams are very co-operative”. Practice area-wide peer support keeps the good vibes going across the firm’s regional offices. Expect “a lot of cross department working on transactions”, which no doubt helps shape the “very supportive” work ethos at the firm.
The unusually equal trainee pay across the firm’s locations probably has a role to play in creating a culture of mutual support and respect. Cut-throat competition is at a minimum, and trainees actually like each other, we understand. As a rookie, “you are respected by everyone in the firm — both on a work and personal level” an insider reports. That’s certainly not something you hear at all law firms.
Read Mills & Reeve’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
With its 19 offices, including recent openings in Shanghai, San Francisco and Amsterdam, Osborne Clarke spreads far and wide. Despite this expansion, it hasn’t lost its friendly and “down to earth” culture. “There is genuinely no one in the firm that I don’t feel I could ask for help and support if I needed it,” an insider reports.
The ample support filters through all levels at the firm, and “ranges from fellow trainees and support staff to senior partners”. Despite the City hours, “people have so much time to discuss things, help and advise, no matter how busy they are”, an OC trainee tells us. The open plan layout has a role to play in this. No wonder the trainees are pretty well-integrated and describe each other as “lovely”.
While it’s “clear to see in some cases why the legal industry has a reputation for cut-throat, self-serving individuals”, another OC confides, “the majority [here] are collaborative and supportive of each other’s initiatives”. Cheers to that!
Read Osborne Clarke’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
PwC’s size — it has an incredible 743 offices across 157 countries (at the most recent count) — doesn’t stop it being friendly. Indeed, peer support seems to flow in abundance among the 50 or so trainees at the firm’s London legal arm. One of them tells us: “All of my peers are very friendly and they generally do everything they can for us to feel comfortable in what we do.”
You’re likely to have peers who are “supportive of things you do around work”, and importantly “you can always approach others to discuss your matters”.
PwC is a firm that “loves a drink” — be that alcoholic or non-alcoholic — with “lots of events for people to get involved in”, including a black tie dinner at the Shard. This culture begins during the firm’s vacation scheme, where current and future PwC stars get to mingle, and continues during the training contract as trainees get to attend “great” socials. From here onwards the “trainee community is great”.
As one trainee tells us, “your intake is your safety net”.
Read PwC’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Described as “extremely supportive”, the trainees and wider teams at TLT are a friendly bunch. The vibe “massively helped with the transition into my first seat”, a trainee tells us. So, your first day at TLT might be less daunting than you’re anticipating.
Trainees tend to stick together to form a “very cohesive group who get on well”. The regular team socials, which are “open to others joining”, and annual summer parties no doubt help the rookies glue. Meanwhile, the open plan office means “there is no need to knock on a closed door”. Seat rotation and NQ discussions “have always been open” too.
And you won’t be short on friends. The supportive culture at TLT stretches across its seven offices, which includes a City base near St Paul’s, its headquarters in Bristol and an overseas outpost in the Greek port of Piraeus.
Trainees “across offices have kept in touch with each other throughout our training”, an insider reveals. Juniors even make time to “grab a lunch with trainees of other offices” when visiting each other.
Read TLT’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Could the recently implemented dress-down policy have something to do with the happy vibes at Travers Smith? Snazzy corporate suits have been ditched in favour of tie-less “business-casual” attire when not conducting work on client floors.
Possibly, but with the firm scoring an A* for peer support for the second consecutive year in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, it would seem that something deeper is at work.
Trainees talk of a “great, warm atmosphere based on shared knowledge and support (and a sense of humour)”. Fellow comrades, including associates and partners “are genuinely friendly and engaging”.
Trainee bonds develop further after 6pm when free access to a fridge and snacks pantry becomes available. We can’t think of a better way to get a know a colleague than over a cup of tea and a biscuit.
What’s certain is that at Travers, which is well known for its high-end private equity practice, you will be working hard — “when push comes to shove”, the firm will be “extracting as much as possible from you”. Just as well that the support from fellow peers is only a desk away.
Read Travers Smith’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Trowers & Hamlins
With a London office on Bunhill Row, Trowers & Hamlins is at the centre of corporate legal life. Its lawyers in the making — split across Manchester, Birmingham and Exeter in addition to the firm’s base in the capital — are a pretty jolly lot. A recent 93% retention rate has contributed to the mood of contentment.
Rookies appreciate that “there’s a lot of support available” to them, even though there’s “more in some departments than others”. Hierarchies are refreshingly minimal, and “everyone is extremely helpful and offers to help out whenever they have capacity”.
People at Trowers are considerate and like to look out for each other: “Everyone on my floor checks in with each other before leaving to lend a hand so no one is in late”, a trainee tells us. Peer support like this keeps trainee morale high and, you’ll probably be going home earlier than your neighbours at Slaughters.
Read Trowers & Hamlins’ full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Outside the top ten, 32 firms scored an A and 19 got a B. Firms’ full Insider Scorecards, containing their grades in all categories of the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18, can be accessed through the Firms Most List.