The law firms with the most approachable partners in Britain 2017-18

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By Legal Cheek on

Love all round at these ten firms

Partners can make or break trainees’ and junior lawyers’ experience of a firm. We asked over 2,000 trainees and junior lawyers at the 60 leading corporate law firms in Britain for their thoughts on the partners that they spend a lifetime trying to impress — and it turns out the City isn’t such a dark scary place after all.

In alphabetical order, the firms that scooped A* grades for partner approachability in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-2018 are…

Bird & Bird

There’s “no hierarchy here” a Bird & Bird insider tells us.

While partners at other firms are perhaps not typically known for their niceness, those at Bird & Bird are in particularly high spirits, and there’s maybe a reason for this — profit per equity partner (PEP) is up for a second year running, jumping by 11% to £503,000.

That could explain why Bird & Bird rookies tell us that most partners they’ve encountered at the firm “are very welcoming” and “happy to give time to aid your development”. A partner that has time? There’s a rare breed.

They’re also enjoying their shiny new London office, so, they might be the happiest they’ve ever been…

Read Bird & Bird’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.


Trainees and partners bond well in the tight-knit community a single-office firm like Bristows fosters. As the IP-focused firm only recruits ten trainees a year, it’s easy to see why they get so much partner attention.

And having superiors who are approachable can seriously enhance your training experience. “I’ve never hesitated to ask my supervisors for advice or clarifications and I’ve never experienced anything but a helpful and understanding attitude from them,” an insider tells us.

While “some partners and senior associates can be a little more stand-offish, on the whole, the open door policy is a great way of helping to get your questions answered”. And if you don’t ask, you don’t get.

Read Bristows’ full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.

Hill Dickinson

At Hill Dickinson, “there’s always someone you can go to”, a trainee tells us. Another says that “everyone I work with is lovely and supportive”. You know partners are friendly if you’re not afraid to signal SOS when you’re stuck.

But perhaps not when you’re completely clueless. “I wouldn’t go to them with questions I consider stupid or questions which I think they would consider stupid,” an insider says.

Of course there are the hyper-busy partners who “can come across as a bit harsh if you catch them on a bad day”. But we think the firm’s “awful coffee” might have something to do with it.

Still, “some superiors are extremely approachable”. Probably the ones who hop over to the local artisan cafe where they can find a proper cup of Joe…

Read Hill Dickinson’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.

Mills & Reeve

As a trainee at Mills & Reeve, “you are respected by everyone in the firm — both on a work and personal level”, a rookie reports. That’s surely music to any trainee’s ears.

M&R partners have scored well because they’re “approachable and friendly and willing to give up their time where needed”. They genuinely want you to do well. And it’s paying off — M&R’s financial results this year show a record turnover of £93.2 million.

Rookies also appreciate that there’s “no real sense of hierarchy” at the regional firm. “A lot of cross department working on transactions” is what helps integrate the old with the new. All in all, a community feel pervades the offices and trainees feel encouraged to mix and mingle with their superiors.

Read Mills & Reeve’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.

Osborne Clarke

Osborne Clarke is known as one of the most down-to-earth law firms in the City. Laidback and easy-going, the partners at OC make for a nice bunch to work with. Partner stress levels could be kept at bay thanks to the recent introduction of green tea to OC’s kitchens. Zen vibes like this seem to do the trick.

Superiors are “very approachable” reports one rookie, “both in a work context and socially”.

The open-plan offices no doubt let the good times roll, and facilitate A* working relationships. “In both seats I have sat within a couple of metres of my supervisor and partners” and “all are genuinely happy to help and support”, a trainee tells us.

Since trainees work in such close proximity to their superiors it’s just as well that the partners are “friendly”. In fact, “we can ask for training on pretty much anything we feel we need”, our spies report.

Read Osborne Clarke’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.


There’s no backstabbing at RPC. The firm has long been among the top scorers for partner approachability. As one rookie puts it, “I have always felt extremely supported”.

The open-plan office and mixed pods system at RPC — which means the outfit can feel more tech company than City firm — “really helps” with partner approachability. One says it ensures that the firm’s 12 trainees a year get plenty of interaction with partners who “invite questions”. Another says the layout “means you sit with anyone from paralegals to partners (including the managing partner) and questions are positively encouraged”.

Expect a “flat hierarchy”, where everyone “is in there together” and “can see what everyone is doing at all levels in the firm”. It’s easy to approach anyone’s desk, since trainees can just casually “walk by” managing partners.

Read RPC’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.


TLT also takes a piece of the partner crown.

Its partners are “the friendliest people in the world. It’s unnerving, actually”, one trainee tells us. Another admits they’d “happily spend time with them outside of work”.

The open plan office “lends itself well to this and creates a largely non-hierarchical working environment. It is easy to approach partners as you are usually sat next to them!” another trainee gushes.

Partners also go the extra mile to keep you happy: “All the partners I have worked with have been supportive and have gone out of their way to ensure my training has met all of my needs, which means I never feel uncomfortable approaching them,” a trainee tells us.

In fact, rookies feel like they can “talk with any of them, be it about work matters or the results from the football on a weekend”. Sounds like best friend material to us. Chances are that they’ll be there for you, when the rain starts to pour…

Read TLT’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.

Travers Smith

There’s “a genuine open door policy and most partners are approachable and happy to help” at Travers Smith. Trainees pretty much cohabit with their superiors as they share a room with a partner and an associate.

In a few cases the “conversation in the room sharing system can only happen when the partner wants to speak”. In general though, the partners are “closely involved in trainee supervision and take a keen interest in our career development”, another rookie tells us.

The recent dress code policy changes, which have seen the firm ditch the corporate suits in favour or tie-less “business-casual” attire when not on client floors, boost the partners’ approachability levels, too.

Read Travers Smith’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.

Trowers & Hamlins

Trowers & Hamlins is also hard to beat in the partner approachability department. As one rookie puts it:

“I have a phenomenal relationship with my supervisor on both a professional and friendly level. She has been a source of constant support throughout my seat in both work and general life matters.”

Life at Trowers doesn’t seem too taxing for a City firm, thanks to such a support network on standby. Senior partners are also “really easy to approach and I constantly approach them for help or when I encounter any difficulties”, a trainee says.

Partners are generous with their time, and their happy work/life balance must have a role to play in this. With an average leaving time of 6.31pm, Trowers hours are a City law dream.

Read Trowers & Hamlins’ full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.

Womble Bond Dickinson

Womble Bond Dickinson partners also don’t bite. In fact, some partners will even “give you a big smile when they see you”, a trainee tells us.

The firm’s intake of 30 trainees across nine offices means that trainees don’t have to elbow each other out of the way to get that precious partner attention. The vibe in Newcastle, Leeds and Bristol is said to be particularly welcoming, but even in London rookies suggest that this is one of the nicest firms.

Partners like to keep their doors “always open”, an insider tells us. Another says “I feel like I could go to anyone at the firm if needs be”. It’s good to know that the partners will have your back, especially when the tough gets going.

Since merging with US giant Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice in November, Womble Bond Dickinson now has more than 420 partners to its name globally. No doubt the new global giant will be working hard to maintain its friendly British culture.

Read Womble Bond Dickinson’s full firm profile, including The Legal Cheek View and Insider Scorecard.

For all the key info about the leading firms, including their Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey Scorecards, check out the Firms Most List.

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