Midlands-based national law firm Browne Jacobson is a fair source of training contracts, with the firm offering around 12 places each year. Good quality work across the firm’s wide range of commercial practice areas, excellent work/life balance and a friendly culture make this a good place to train. Plus, with the firm enjoying rising revenues over the last few years – most recently disclosed results showing a 9% increase in turnover from £66.8 million to £73 million – there is an optimism around the place.
Trainees can expect “some brilliant work on major transactions and sitting at the negotiating table with the big boys and girls” and “some mind numbing and endless bundling”. With the firm specialising in interesting commercial niches – including advising brands on how they can maximise their potential – alongside hot areas like technology and healthcare, there are always plenty of attractive instructions coming through the door.
The training itself is “overall fairly good, as long as you are pro-active in seeking learning opportunities”, although it can vary between departments and “some teams expect very high performance from day one and don’t put a lot of effort into training”. A handful of client secondments – to, among others, the NHS – come recommended, but most go to newly qualifieds rather than trainees.
Peers are mostly “very tight-knit and supportive”. One tells us: “Maybe I just got a good year, but there is a real cohesiveness between the trainees.” There is an associated very active social scene. “People will go out but there’s no ‘obligation’ to be five pints down on a Thursday night,” reports a trainee. With Thursdays like that we can’t wait for Friday night!
Partners are “very supportive” with the caveat that “this can be dependent on how busy they are and their mood”. The open plan office helps, “although when they’ve had bad news it can make the office environment pretty awkward.”
Meanwhile, the working hours are on the whole very reasonable. According to the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, commercial tends to be the longest hours apparently, but the plentiful amount of work flowing into the firm seems to have pushed up hours across the firm. For now Browne Jacobson junior lawyers seem fine with it, with one stating: “For the quality of work, the size of firm and the pay, I would imagine you would be hard pressed to get find a top 60 law firm with a better work/life balance.” But if those hours keep increasing there may be pressure for a pay rise.
Which brings us onto one of Browne Jacobson’s weaker points. While the firm’s money is OK for the regions, where the majority of the firm’s trainees are based in its Nottingham headquarters, it doesn’t compete with City of London megabucks. What the firm does offer is some decent access to London work via its very fancy City office just round the corner from the Gherkin.
Nor is the firm great on perks. “Perks are pretty basic and generally done in the most austere way imaginable,” an insider reports. Another adds: “Being declined expenses for a quick stop “dinner” of a supermarket sandwich meal deal, having forgotten to eat any dinner at all the previous night on a completion was the low point.” But there is private medical insurance after a year’s service and a flat bonus that is dependent on firm-wide performance.