Cue major office envy
From fanciful artwork to plush client lounges, the ‘Gherkin’ to the ‘Walkie Talkie’ — some corporate law firms are housed in glass and steel splendours so spectacular it’s easy to mistake them for luxury hotels or exclusive cocktail bars.
Rookies spend a considerable chunk of their day (and sometimes night!) toiling away in these buildings — but do they beget gloom or spark joy? We put the question ‘How functional, comfortable and impressive is your workplace?’ to over 2,000 trainees and junior associates at nearly 100 of the country’s leading corporate law firms, as part of this year’s Legal Cheek survey. Respondents then rated their places of work on a sliding scale from one to ten.
Eleven law firm offices towered over and above the rest. Here is the shortlist, listed alphabetically, for the swankiest UK law firm office of 2020. We also received hundreds of anonymous comments from junior lawyers about their digs, with comments varying from “could do with a bit of a reno” to “my chair sings me a lullaby”. You’ll find a select few of these below.
Ashurst recently relocated to London’s Fruit and Wool Exchange, a historical landmark opposite Spitalfields Market. Rookies rave about the “adjustable desks”, “impressive artwork” and increased provision of “portable IT equipment”. Plus there’s a lot more breakout space and collaborative areas to work, we’re told.
It’s a thumbs-up from rookies at Burges Salmon‘s Bristol base: “Bright, airy and reflective of the firm’s collaborative approach,” chimes one happy rookie.
“My sister felt like she was in Suits when she was visiting”, pretty much tells you all you need to know about Clifford Chance‘s ultra glam and “impressive” Canary Wharf headquarters — one of only a handful of law firms in the banking-dominated E14 postcode. And the office block boasts its very own pool!
Our moles tell us the views over at Gowling WLG‘s London office are “fantastic”. The eighth floor apparently offers some of the best, with London’s South Bank, the Tower of London and Tower Bridge all in sight.
Not many people can say they work at the ‘Gherkin’ — the City’s ‘most Instagrammable’ building, apparently. But Kirkland & Ellis lawyers can. Their digs are spread across six floors in Sir Norman Foster’s triangular glass masterpiece, nicknamed after the pickle for its cylindrical shape. “It’s pretty cool,” one junior puts it mildly.
You’ll find Norton Rose Fulbright‘s London headquarters located by The Thames in More London Riverside. It’s a “light, modern and sleek building”, describes one of our spies, but brace yourselves because there are plans to go open plan pretty soon. The firm’s client floor, located on the ninth floor, is where it’s at, apparently, with a roof terrace overlooking the City skyline.
Designated backdrop for a number of blockbusters, including James Bond action thriller Skyfall (and, erm, a McDonalds TV advert) is Reed Smith‘s tapering Broadgate Tower base. “I literally screamed when I saw our lobby in ‘Good Omens’,” squeals one excitable trainee. “I take great pride in our lovely tower.” But things are starting to get a little cramped and cosy in the 35-storey building we’re told now that a few of the firms’ floors have been vacated.
This 60 Ludgate Hill development boasts 5* boutique hotel levels of luxury with homely touches. “The office is modern, bright and airy and the location is really great as well. I quite like the offices — they are comfortable and people sit two to a room, so there’s always company to be had,” says one trainee.
Trainees at Taylor Wessing gush about the “amazing artwork” adorning the walls of the firm’s lobby. This is, perhaps, unsurprising given the outfit’s high-profile sponsorship of the National Portrait Gallery Photographic Prize. But the jewel in the crown is the ninth-floor roof terrace, with panoramic views stretching across legal London, and used in the summer for the occasional shindig (as one trainee puts it).
Vinson & Elkins‘ London gaffe is “very fancy in the ‘Walkie Talkie’ with Warhol prints on the walls and lots of white marble”. Oof! Plus it’s only a few floors down from SkyGarden, London’s highest public garden. Cue major office envy.
Weil Gotshal & Manges enthuse about the firm’s very convenient location on Fetter Lane and excellent, hands-on facilities team. “Can’t complain — IT will give you mostly anything you ask for (standing desk, fancy new screens, ergonomic keyboards etc.),” says one insider. And the office itself is very slick, boasting a pretty great terrace upstairs for those rare days of good weather.
The winning law firm will be announced at the Legal Cheek Awards 2020, held at Sea Containers House, the swish riverside building located on London’s South Bank, on Thursday 26 March.