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Exclusive: Freshfields trainee jokes to fellow rookies ‘the poor are nothing’

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Spokesperson says misplaced remark in email ‘not reflective of the firm or its values’

A young magic circle rookie solicitor has discovered first hand there are limits to what constitutes office banter after an email in which they appeared to joke about poor people fell flat among fellow trainees.

Legal Cheek can reveal the crass remark came as a group trainees at Freshfields were attempting to synchronise their busy schedules in order to arrange a much needed social event in light of the lifting of Covid restrictions.

Responding to an email confirming a BBQ will be held later this month, the unnamed rookie made several amendments to the original message — and specifically the first sentence of the final paragraph — in what appears to be a misplaced (and slightly confusing) attempt at humour.

Post-amends, the sentence read:

“In case helpful, a reminder that I am rich in colleagues and the poor are nothing…”

A redacted screenshot of the trainee’s email

The original line, prior to amends and which does not appear in the screenshot above, read: “In case helpful, a reminder that I am rich in barbecues (there are 2) and so meat will be cooked on one and everything else on the other.”

Legal Cheek understands the edited email (redacted screenshot above) was sent to around half of the firm’s 80 or so trainees.

A spokesperson for Freshfields told Legal Cheek “the comments are not reflective of the firm or its values.”

The rookie’s tweaks didn’t go down well with some colleagues, with one insider telling us that it was a “shame” they appeared to have chosen to poke fun at people from “working class” and “less privileged” backgrounds.

The trainee’s “poor” joke comes as firms across the City continue to splash the cash in order to retain the very best junior lawyer talent. A host of top firms have upped salaries in recent weeks, with some 20-somethings now trousering upwards of £145k upon qualification.

Our Firms Most List shows a trainee at Freshfields earns £45,000 in year one, rising to £51,000 in year two. Upon qualification, rookie salaries almost double to £100,000 — a six-figure package recently matched by several of its MC counterparts.

Freshfields recently upped its efforts to support aspiring lawyers from lower socio-economic backgrounds, through the launch of new mentoring programme which sees sixth-formers take part in work experience and skills session led by the firm’s lawyers.

The 2021 Legal Cheek Firms Most List

43 Comments

Jarrod

Disgraceful.

(169)(12)

Old City codger

Agreed, it does speak volumes about the kind of person who joins Freshfields and thinks this kind of joke is “funny” or “bantah”.

That being said, whoever thought it a good idea to grass the trainee out and send it across the LC ought to have a word with themselves, as that’s absolute rat behaviour.

Anon

you can’t be on both sides. either this is bad behaviour that should be called out or it’s not bad and so no one should have “grassed”. Pick a lane

Jax

Lol just one person but seriously, it’s a bit disappointing, especially to white working class males.

Gigi Gorgeous

Quite telling that a poxy social will be the “only fun they’ve had all TC”.

Don’t see that in the brochures eh. Thought everything was “exciting” and “intellectually stimulating”.

Anon

I think this is obviously a dig at COVID and not Freshfields…

Anonymous

Lol I can tell you aren’t a trainee. WFH has not made training contracts more “boring”. I think it speaks much more to the work you are doing at home or not

Tezzle

Is this what’s classed as bantz round Freshies? SAD

Anon

God just imagine having a TC coming up at Freshfields… Think I would actually consider quitting. It’s the worst deal out of every law firm, just awful

Anon

Worse than having to lick the partner’s boots at SM for the same wage at a SC firm?

Anonymous

After all that lecturing on how firms “pride themselves” on their values. This is absolutely disgraceful.

LOL look at what the Freshfields website states: “Our values – Set out below is our statement of who we are. It embodies our ambition to be exceptional, our culture and our absolute determination that all of us will work with each other, our clients and our other stakeholders, day in day out, in the way we describe to help our clients go further.”

What a complete joke and embarrassment.

Archibald Pomp O'City

You’re truly surprised that corporate statements about values are mere lip service and are not even known about on the ground? Naivo.

Anon

Aside from being in really poor taste i don’t even get how this is meant to be funny

Harsch but trüe

It seems funny to such individuals who by and large populate Freshfields I’m afraid. Same comments and bantz are equally as common at many obscure US firms in the City, full of anxious chinless types with no life but the “top whacc” they get paid.

Archibald Pomp O'City

“poor taste” – for an article about abuse of the POOR in reference to a BARBEQUE

Are you trying to be funny?

Pi R. Sqaured

In a place riddled with posh but robotic Bristol and Durham grads what else are you expecting?

What?

It’s almost 40% Oxbridge

Anonymous

Ah the famous Freshfields recruitment recipe… Blues and blondes.

Anonymous

It’s just lip service, smh.

Confused

Isn’t this actually ridiculing the person for having 2 BBQs and is therefore a dig at them (ie implying that the original email’s subtext was I’m rich because I have 2 BBQs and the poor are nothing)? Maybe I’m missing something. Shocking markup nonetheless.

Fixing the main text

Even if it was, that doesn’t make sense – LC messed up what the original line said. It looks like it should have been “I am rich in colleagues and poor in BBQs” – as in, there are many more colleagues than 2 bbqs would be ideal for. Nothing about being rich for having 2 bbqs.

Not impressed

Dumb x2: (1) dumb enough to make those ‘jokes’, and (2) even dumber for making them via email…

Tyler

The geezer is definitely working too many hours and has lost the plot. Up the mid-tier!

Anonybants

Classic Freshfields

Anonymous

Things I have heard from people in this profession:

“Poor people smell”
“Tradesmen are not real workers”
“We really need to stop hiring people from working class backgrounds”
“People from [name of city which I can’t remember] are all scum”

Also heard a partner refer to an old colonialism style map as a reflection of the “good old days”.

Witnessed the same partner referred to above (earning around 400k) step over and laugh at a homeless man who dropped his change and was scrambling around to pick it up. Then the partner smuggly said “unfortunate”.

This was all at the same firm.

Anonymous

Sorry just to clarify I do not mean this all happened at Freshields. I mean all of the above that I referred to was at one firm.

Realist (original)

Do you think other working environments do not have disgusting people? Seriously just asking. Those tradesmen you are defending, spend 48 hours working to them and experience the amount of sexist jokes some of them make.

Archibald Pomp O'City

Until you learn how to spell and how to use compound adjectives, nobody will believe a bloody word you say.

Ex-FBD

I am not remotely surprised at this. Preferring the white upper-class is classic FF – that trainee will make partner.

FBD Trainee

Freshfields is a firm for winners. This trainee (who I know) is simply stating the truth and whoever ratted them out should quit and start selling the Big Issue full-time.

Anonymous

Are you serious?

Anon 2

Fellow Anon, the fact that you have to ask that question speaks for itself

Freshfields Summer Vacation Scheme

Will Freshfields increase NQ salary?

Rishi

Seven-fold.

Anon

I say this as a genuine word of advice as an associate in another firm with close friends who are junior associates at Freshfields – don’t go to Freshfields. Take the Summer Vac experience, learn what you can from it, stick it in your CV and go elsewhere. No one I know is happy there. Heck, no one I know KNOWS anyone who is happy there. You can do better work and be treated better at most other firms in the city.

Freshfields Summer Vacation Scheme

What makes Freshfields different? It seemed normal enough during the vac scheme.

Anonymous

Get a sense of humour, people.

(Also the absolute nark who leaked this to Legal Cheek is the worst kind of snitching loser, and probably got bullied as a child)

Anon

Lol is this the rookie trainee who made the joke

Anonymous

Bloody hell he/she got caught in 4k – how will they explain this 🤣🤣🤣🤣

Ooof

A spokesperson for Freshfields told Legal Cheek “the comments are not reflective of the firm or its values.”…

HR speak for “the training principal brought him out behind the shed like old yeller”. So long, MC career.

I Know My Place

Sadly if you redacted the email addresses and played “guess which firm this happened at” then Freshfields would be a very popular answer. Still, the firm has someone participating in the Equestrian event at the Olympics so that also sends a great message of hope to working class kids.

Bombay Bad Boy

Only a lawyer could write an email like that to arrange a BBQ. Deserved to be reported to Legal Cheek even prior to the idiot’s comment.

Anonymous

This reflects more poorly on the legal community as a whole rather than Freshfields as an individual firm. We have all of these discussions and webinars about diversity and making a legal career more accessible to marginalized groups, yet look at the type of people who get hired and promoted.

Don’t be fooled; these types of incidents are not unique or isolated to Freshfields.

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