Commercial firm Addleshaw Goddard seems a happy ship, rating highly for supportive peers in the 2020-21 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey.
The firm has about 1200 lawyers in 12 offices in London, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, Hamburg, the Middle East, Singapore and Hong Kong, and a formal alliance with a firm in Tokyo. It advises FTSE 100 and other major companies across corporate, commercial, finance and project, real estate and litigation. The firm has a strong interest in tech, and offers trainees a six-month lawtech seat working alongside lawyers and technologists to develop products in its innovation and legal technology group.
Addleshaw lets trainees get stuck in on proper lawyer work rather than boring tasks. “You have the chance to work on everything from small local deals to large international work and nothing is ever dull,” says one. According to another rookie, “You don’t feel like a trainee and your role isn’t particularly admin heavy. You get involved in really interesting and niche work, attend high-profile cases and events and you are trusted to run your own matters/ files quite often.”
Newly qualified lawyers receive £75,000 (London), £45,000 (Leeds and Manchester) and £42,000 (Scotland), and this year the firm retained 33 out of 37 of its autumn qualifying trainees and all 11 of its spring qualifying cohort. “They seem to hire genuinely nice trainees ― there’s no competition or infighting,” says one rookie. Another trainee comments: “AG on the whole is incredibly approachable and supportive. This is especially true of the partners, often I found myself working directly with the partners on transactions.” Overall, survey respondents’ comments are scattered with words such as “friendly”, “sociable” and “easy going”.
The firm’s partners are pretty friendly. One trainee said they “haven’t come across a single partner that I wouldn’t walk up to for a chat or to ask questions”. An insider tells us: “The hierarchy is fairly flat at AG. The open-plan layout means you are always learning from your surroundings, and get to know senior members of the team fairly quickly.”
Prior to each seat, trainees are given at least a day of training to bring them up to speed with the basic concepts involved. Trainees may be given further specific training, and will also attend any training session the department holds. Otherwise, “day-to-day, we learn on the job with clear instructions and feedback,” a rookie reports. One trainee reveals they had “great ‘hands on’ responsibility from the get go – I was drafting and negotiating pretty lengthy & complex deeds of release in my first three weeks of my first seat in Finance with a Silver Circle firm on the other side. Having spoken to the trainee there, they were merely having a read over and sending comments to the associate who’d deal with the substantive drafting whereas I was responsible for the whole doc itself!”
This sense of inclusion is no doubt enhanced by the fact that offices are open-plan with break-out pods and excellent canteens, although the survey did uncover some gripes about the “old buildings” in the Scottish offices, despite recent refurbishments to the interior (for balance, another respondent praised the “beautiful view of Edinburgh Castle”). When COVID-19 struck, the firm’s enthusiasm for technology paid dividends. Adjustment to working from home was “super” and “seamless” – all lawyers, paralegals and support staff were given £200 towards extra kit for working from home and the IT worked “flawlessly”, respondents report.
There is relatively little opportunity to work internationally, although two lawyers spent six months abroad, one in Qatar and the other in Hong Kong. However, secondments with clients are fairly common, and were taken with Drax Group, BP, Castle Water, Aberdeen Standard Investments and a FTSE 100 retail company.
Generally speaking, the lawyers considered their work-life balance not bad for a commercial firm of Addleshaw Goddard’s stature. “Peaks and troughs…some people have a worse time of it than others,” said one. “Some (but not many) trainees manage to leave at six on the dot every day.”
Perks of the job include a £180 gym subsidy, subsidised private healthcare and “really fancy stationery”. There is a firmwide drive towards greater eco-friendliness, with the recent introduction of Environment Week, good recycling systems and compulsory seminars on eco topics. Nevertheless, many feel they have further to go, with one person highlighting that the takeaway food comes in a polystyrene box and the salads come in plastic tubs, and another noting that, despite the firm’s policy that domestic air travel should only be done with permission, “all Scottish trainees were straight away given the option of flying down to London for the trainee conference”.
In the firm’s latest financial results, released in summer 2020, Addleshaw saw profit per equity partner fall 5% to £690,000 as revenues rose 4% to £288 million.