Revealed: the law firms with the nicest partners in Britain 2018-19

By on

The new Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey results — analysed

The relationship between trainees and their seniors within law firms can be fraught — as illustrated by Legal Cheek’s recent exclusive story about a partner asking trainees to pull an all-nighter on a Friday to help with an urgent task (and demanding evidence of “business critical commitments” from those unable to assist).

But these sort of highly charged bust-ups don’t happen that much, with rookie lawyers mostly getting on pretty well with those responsible for supervising them.

This is reflected in the results of the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19; as part of which we asked over 2,000 rookies to rank the partners they work with on a scale of one to ten for their approachability. One was defined as “I bow/curtsy in their presence” while tend was “Endless top bantz with the partnerz”. We also received hundreds of anonymous comments. Fifteen firms out of over 80 surveyed scored an A*, 42 got an A, 22 and B and four a C.

The law firms which scored an A* for partner approachability in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19

Firms listed in alphabetical order; winner to be announced at the Legal Cheek Awards on 21 March 2019

Bird & Bird
Clyde & Co
DAC Beachcroft
Eversheds Sutherland
Gowling WLG
Osborne Clarke
Ropes & Gray
Squire Patton Boggs
Taylor Wessing
Travers Smith
Womble Bond Dickinson

The firms with the best grades tended to have wider cultures that aim to downplay rather than emphasise hierarchy. One popular way to achieve this is through open plan offices. At Osborne Clarke “trainees sit next to associates and partners and all are happy to answer questions”. A similar set up at RPC, where new starters can find themselves seated alongside senior management, promotes an atmosphere in which “you can have conversations like they are fellow trainees”.

The alternative to open plan is open door, where partners have their own offices but are expected to make themselves available to juniors when approached. Most firms at least nominally operate such a policy, and it can work well, although when partners are busy “their faces sometimes tell a different story”. Room-sharing is also common. For example, Travers Smith operates a cross generational set up that sees rooms shared by one partner, one associate and one trainee.

Equally as important as the physical arrangement is organisational etiquette. According to our survey, trainees like it when humour is encouraged. To this end, it helps when partners “don’t themselves too seriously,” as one DAC Beachcroft insider puts it. “I’ve made jokes at the expense of every partner I’ve ever worked for and they’ve laughed (without being forced to laugh by the employment tribunal),” a Clyde & Co rookie tells us.

Womble Bond Dickinson (WBD) seems to have a similar vibe, with one rookie reporting:

“On a social level, the partners are great fun and you can poke fun at them and make jokes inside and out of the office. They are generally up for participating in the silly activities we run and even have lunch in the canteen with us a lot. At work, they are very busy but are happy to explain things and answer questions.”

Indeed, some WBD partners are so funny that “I tend to feel not witty enough” around them, another trainee confides.

The 2019 Firms Most List – featuring the Legal Cheek Survey results in full

At Eversheds Sutherland, over the summer there was a “Love Island de-brief every morning”, as partners flexed their fluency in youth culture, while at Bristows one of the partners is apparently known as “the Archbishop of Banterbury”.

Other firms focus less on gags and more on fostering a nurturing environment. According to our sources, Gowling WLG, Squire Patton Boggs, TLT, Ropes & Gray, Taylor Wessing and Bird & Bird are particularly good for this. “I feel I can ask questions of all my superiors and they will make time not only to provide an answer but to make sure I understand the point raised,” a TLTer tells us.

Firms with strong records for work/life balance also tend to have nicer partners. Take Shoosmiths: “There is no one in the firm who I would feel uncomfortable approaching for something. A lot of the partners are ex-City lawyers so working at Shoosmiths allows them to be a bit more relaxed in their work — consequently, you can be pretty informal with them,” one of their trainees says.

Peruse all of the firm’s new 2018-19 survey scorecards — including training, quality of work, perks and much more — via the Legal Cheek Firms Most List 2018-19.

Previously: The best law firms for tech 2018-19, The best law firms for training 2018-19.

For all the latest commercial awareness info, and advance notification of Legal Cheek's careers events:

Sign up to the Legal Cheek Hub


Kirkland NQ

Why don’t the good firms have nice partners ;-(



Are they not nice there?


Barely surviving

The sweatiest of US sweatshops in the City. 24/7 culture is real, no matter if you’re on holiday or your nan just died of ass cancer. You will grease up for penetration and take it in deep, or you’ll leave.


Weil Trainee

Hear, hear.



Hey I’m looking to apply to Weil. Any tips?



Top tip: don’t ask randoms on LC for tips.



The only tips you’d get from Weil are the partner’s…


It depends on what you consider ‘good’. My view is that this survey shows that these are the ‘good’ firms. Being top profit makers and having amazing client lists doesn’t make them ‘good’ for those who work there.



RPC really is a lovely place to work. The partners are great. There are no microwaves or fridges though, which is a complete joke.



This comment was brought to you by RPC’s monthly payment to Alex.


JD Partner

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


Law Student

What did the juniors over at Greenberg Glusker have to say in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey? The prospect of working there one day excites me.



I dream of working for Duane Morris someday, top top firm.


Warwick 2nd Year

Would Duane Morris be a good place to train? I am targeting top US firms in London.






Open plan is so shite.



It is the work of satan



Meaningless, paid-for, unrepresentative bullshit.



Thanks for this, Alex.

Just out of interest, for the sake of full disclosure and transparency, which of these firms (if any) give you sponsorship money?

If any do, what processes did you put in place to ensure that this did not, in any way, influence the results?



Hi there

Thanks for this question, we’ve been hearing this a lot recently and just want to clear up any misconceptions about how we work here at LC. As some readers may already know, following the departure of Katy King we have had to adapt our practices in order to maximise our profits and to chuck any scraps of journalistic integrity we did have to the dogs.

As such, we’ve adopted the following policy with regards to payment, sponsorship and other paid collaborations. It’s simple, succint and we feel that it really goes to the heart of what we believe here at LC:

1) Fuck you.

2) We do what we want.

We are currently looking for a third maxim that works well with the first two, and we’re running a competition to decide. By “running a competition”, I of course mean that for £1000 I’ll post make the third maxim whatever you want. Hell, we’ll even change the other two if you pay us, we don’t give a shit about anything except profit. Just don’t let the SRA know!

Anyway, thanks for getting in touch

LC team



Why would the LC staff care about what the sra thinks?



They’re all qualified. Oh hang on a second…



Or otherwise known as, the firms who gave the most money to Legal Cheek.


Dechert Trainee

This post has been removed because it breached Legal Cheek’s comments policy.


Concerned Citizen




LLL indeed



What did it say?



Brothers! Sisters!

We need a four day week!

We need to work less!




Most of these firms are regional, piss poor partner salary



Addleshaws and DWF are fuming – being a ‘genuinely great place to work’ was the only positively advertising they have ever had.

And it always been lies.



I hear Hogan Lovells’ partners are very open. And the firm has very relaxed IT policies as well. Great at-desk entertainment options.



I hear only Irwin Mitchell would know about that fully – even more than Hogen Lovells.


Be ashamed, be very ashamed

What is this crap?
At least one of those firms has seen its lawyers in the SDT for forgery/dishonesty, drink driving, mistreatment of whistleblowers or for me too related misdemeanors.
Surveys like this have no value but this one seems to be totally disingenuous and I question the integrity of all of those involved with it.



why do all the shet firms have nice partners


Slightly sceptical

A few points:

1. The criticisms above are valid. This ‘survey’ is methodologically worthless;

2. There is a risk, in fact I would say certainty, regarding the article’s assertions that, “Firms with strong records for work/life balance also tend to have nicer partners” that people unconsciously assume that “fewer hours” = “nice partners”. It is a truism that most of us, ultimately, get the same hourly wage. We also pick what law firms we choose to work for. If people don’t like working long ours, they should choose a different law firm. Don’t blame partners for your unhappiness with your choice of hours. If you want a truly cushy ride, abandon private practice and go in-house. You can knock off every day at 5pm at the right place (but note the hourly wage truism above). That doesn’t make your managers “nicer”, it just means that you’ve chosen a different career path (different, not worse);

3. I’m at a Magic Circle firm. I was, and remain, astonished how friendly and approachable the partners are. I also happily work 14-days and some weekends. If someone tells you that they didn’t know what to expect regarding their workload then they are either (a) lying to you; or (b) lying to themselves. I’m not sure which is more tragic.



You happily work 14-days you say? Must be a CC Associate.



haha. happily work 14 days? you are not normal. get help


Comments are closed.

Related Stories