Amish or Amal?
Corporate law and social life are not usually two things you would put together. Long hours, multiple deadlines and demanding partners can often leave little opportunity to unwind and kick back with colleagues.
But having questioned over 2,000 trainees and junior lawyers at the 60 leading corporate law firms about their downtime habits, we discovered it’s far from ‘all work and no play’. As part of our exclusive research, respondents were asked to rate their firm’s social life from one to ten, with one being “Amish” right through to the top rating of ten, “Amal”.
In alphabetical order, the firms that secured A* grades for social life in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-2018 are…
Life post-ampersand appears to be going well for Baker McKenzie, which has secured an A* for social life for the second year running in our survey.
Located just off Fleet Street, the global outfit’s London office is a hive of activity, according to one trainee: “Lots of events, receptions, events and more events! If you want to live a social life only in the office it is entirely possible. However, please do make friends outside of the office now and again.” Another insider said: “There is always lots going on.” With another spy adding “we are all the best of friends”, we’re sure the Bakers bunch are chuffed with the firm’s impressive autumn retention score of 94%.
But one associate does claim that things “used to be better” on the social life front. That said, they’re still content to describe Baker’s social life as “good”, adding: “maybe I’ve just become rather boring since I qualified.”
Read Baker McKenzie’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
The social scene at Bristows sounds buzzing. “There is a firm-wide drinks event on the last Friday of every month” and a “big all-out glitzy dinner dance in the spring and an autumn party following the AGM”, one rookie reveals.
Another lawyer tells us that as afternoon turns to evening many of Bristows’ trainees and associates will nip to “a local pub down the road” to unwind and catch up. The more sporting-minded lawyers at the intellectual property-focused practice are catered for too. One trainee says:
“There’s loads of sporting and charity events that get a very good turnout, including an annual cycle challenge which last year took participants from Brighton to London.”
And it would appear this vibrant social scene extends to the firm’s future trainees too. “We all get on so well as a year. The firm was great at getting us to meet with the partners and associates before we joined, having a couple of lunches during the GDL and LPC,” one Bristows source explains.
Read Bristows’ full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Burges Salmon has scored well across the board in this year’s survey, earning A*s in four categories.
One of these is social life; thoroughly deserved if this trainee anecdote is anything to go by:
“The firm’s events are always really well done with good food, lots of alcohol and everyone gets involved — from a senior partner dressing as Mick Jagger to an NQ doing a James Bond tango with another partner.”
One Burges’ lawyer describes his colleagues as a “social bunch”, but does confess that it can differ from department to department. That said, “firm wide events” are a staple at Burges, which trumpeted a perfect 100% retention score (28 out of 28) earlier this year. The outfit’s social club has also been described at “very good”.
We wonder if Burges Salmon’s West Country location has aided its score in any way: Bristol has been voted Europe’s coolest city and is littered with legendary bars and pubs like The Apple and The Coronation Tap.
Read Burges Salmon’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Another firm praised for its social life in our survey is private client and real estate outfit Forsters.
Lawyers there work out of a grand Georgian terrace in well heeled Mayfair, a location described by one of its lawyers as “a great place to work”. Indeed, it’s just a stone’s throw from celebrity-filled clubs and bars including Annabel’s and May Fair Bar. If clubbing isn’t your thing, Mayfair’s top restaurant scene perhaps makes up for Forsters’ lack of a canteen: eateries including Hakkasan and Sexy Fish have fed the likes of Bella Hadid, Michael Cain, Chrissy Teigen and John Lennon, David Cameron and Noel Gallagher. It’s also very close to Hyde Park, which puts on events like Winter Wonderland and British Summer Time.
So given its lively location, it probably won’t come as a surprise that Forsters, which was founded in 1998 and pays £61,000 upon qualification, chalked up an A* for its social life. It’s also worth noting the firm takes on just nine trainees a year, which likely adds to the tight-knit social feel.
Read Forsters’ full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Kirkland & Ellis
Work hard, play harder appears to be the ethos at Kirkland & Ellis.
The US firm’s London office is a “pretty liberal place”, says one insider, and “everyone is up for having fun” outside the swanky Gherkin office grind. After all, NQs at the firm are hardly short of cash to splash: they are paid an eye-watering £140,000 a year.
Kirkland’s bashes are the stuff of legend, according to the firm’s lawyers. Party locations include five-star hotels like the Savoy and St Pancras Renaissance. Top restaurants like Coq d’Argent and Yauatcha also get a name check, while Kirkland’s lot has also been living it up outside of London in the Four Seasons in Hampshire, a manor house that has its own spa. “Literally no expense spared as a reward for how hard everyone works,” one rookie reveals. Another anonymous respondent adds:
“There are a few office wide events every year and they are absolutely insane. The regular social scene is pretty limited but closing lunches and ad hoc drinks often end up being huge.”
Read Kirkland & Ellis’ full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
“There is often something going on, whether it is sport, client events, team or departmental drinks,” says one Osborne Clarke lawyer. The firm doesn’t just throw “great summer and Christmas parties”, but treats its lawyers to “lots of spontaneous social events and planned socials”.
The glue that holds these events together is surely the amiable relationship between OC staff. “[We] are all really good friends and regularly hang out outside of work,” one survey respondent said. Another insider reports that the tech-savvy outfit “tends to hire similar people, and so everyone gets on very well.”
Perhaps this buoyant social scene is helped along by high spirits in the firm. For one, it’s had a string of recent strong retention performances. Earlier this year, Osborne Clarke chalked up impressive scores of 82% (14 out of 17) and 100% (six out of six). Revenue is up too, having risen from £205.9 million to £213.6 million this year.
Read Osborne Clarke’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Top-rated technology practice Taylor Wessing is a hub of social activity, according to Legal Cheek survey respondents from the firm.
One source tell us that trainees and associates will often meet up outside work, taking advantage of the firm’s “regular drinks scene” and well-stocked Friday drinks trolley. But if you can’t be bothered to try to get the gang together after work, you can always leave it to the firm: another of the outfit’s newcomers tells us “there are great trainee events organised by the firm’s trainee solicitor council”.
Location must help. Taylor Wessing’s London office, which dishes out roughly 24 training contracts annually, is located just off Fetter Lane, allowing its lawyers to take full advantage of the wide array of nearby shops, pubs, restaurants and clubs after a hard day’s work.
Read Taylor Wessing’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
There is a solid social scene at Travers Smith. Fresh from bumping NQ pay from £71,500 to £75,000 earlier this summer, the outfit regularly puts on a range of “social events” throughout the year, according to one spy.
Another Travers insider tells us that there is always a “very good attendance at the Bishops Finger”. The pub (or Travers’ unofficial office after 7pm on a Friday) is just a two-minute walk from the firm’s London HQ.
The firm’s sociable and down-to-earth atmosphere is perhaps exemplified through a recent tweak to its office dress code policy. In August, Travers told its lawyers, trainees and support staff that they could wear “business casual” clothing when not in meetings with clients or conducting work on client floors. This allows lawyers to be “a bit more relaxed about their attire when on office floors or in internal meetings” (says the firm’s managing partner).
Read Travers Smith’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Trowers & Hamlins
“You will always find someone to have a drink with and in my team drinks start at about 5ish on Fridays,” a Trowers & Hamlins trainee tells us. But, if you don’t fancy beginning your weekend with a hangover, “there are lots of opportunities to get involved in sporting or social events” at Travers too.
“There’s definitely an active social life here”, which Legal Cheek is pleased to report includes “crazy golf” in some departments. In others, such as the firm’s housing and regeneration team, the department will host welcome and leaving dinners for trainees.
The variation between departments extends to variation between offices, too. The firm has nine offices across five countries, one Trowers trainee telling us that “after work drinks in Birmingham could be better”, for example. Others, perhaps so impressed by the events the firm does put on, are left wanting more. One comment made was that the firm “could do with more firm-wide/organised socials”.
Read Trowers & Hamlins’ full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
Leeds outfit Walker Morris secured its highest grade in the social life category across the entire Legal Cheek survey (in which there are ten categories). Small wonder: the corporate player puts on a host of “excellent” charity activities, one source tells us, such as quizzes and rounders. Charity dress down days are also popular.
In addition, Walker Morris’ trainees, vacation scheme students and future trainees enjoy a plethora of “great social events” put on by the the firm. Though the firm’s trainee intake isn’t huge — 15 a year — its lawyers appreciate that these socials “allow everyone to get to know each other a bit more personally”. They also “really contribute to the friendly nature of the firm”, says one Walker Morris insider. Given the friendly, sociable buzz among the trainees, we’re sure they’re thrilled by the firm’s latest 100% retention score.
Read Walker Morris’ full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.
For all the key information about firms, including what they pay and their full results in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, check out The Firms Most List.