“I couldn’t have asked for any more from my training contract — I am a remarkably better lawyer and person since joining the firm,” remarked one truly fulfilled Addleshaw Goddard trainee in response to the 2022-23 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey. The commercial firm seems a happy ship right now, rating highly for supportive peers among other categories.
The firm has about 1,400 lawyers in 16 offices, spread across three continents. In the UK, AG has established bases in London, Manchester, Leeds, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen (its Scottish presence being established in 2017 following a successful merger with HBJ). The firm has enjoyed a particularly good run in Europe recently, with a spate of new offices: Hamburg (2019), Paris (2021), Luxembourg, Munich and Frankfurt (2022) and in Ireland through a merger with Irish firm Eugene F Collins in 2022. The latter was celebrated across the firm’s existing offices with free Irish-themed cupcakes, making us green with envy!
Looking further afield, the firm has offices across Asia and the Middle East, although it should be noted that its Hong Kong office is set to close following the expiry of its lease. The firm has reported it will transition to a ‘best friend’ approach in the region instead, similar to its model in Tokyo where it operates through a formal alliance with Hashidate Law Office.
As well as big real estate work, AG advises FTSE 100 and other major companies across its corporate and commercial, finance and project, litigation and real estate divisions. The firm also has a strong interest in tech, and offers trainees a six-month lawtech seat working alongside lawyers and technologists to develop products in its “industry leading” Innovation and Legal Technology group, who insiders praise as being “really supportive and helpful”.
It’s therefore safe to say the firm is growing rapidly, but do the financials support their optimistic goal to double in size by 2025? So far, so good, it seems. In its latest financial results, released in summer 2022, AG saw profits rise £15 million to £155 million and global revenue jump a whopping 18% to £377 million. Profit per equity partner sits at around £690,000. Following a pandemic-induced redundancy consultation towards the end of 2020, the firm has rebounded well, making 23 lateral partner hires, while its litigation practice has grown by an impressive 20% year-on-year since 2017. The firm currently has about 340 partners, a figure bolstered significantly by recent office openings.
The lawyers on the ground are benefiting from the firm’s growth, too ― NQ pay in the City rises 16% to £95,000 (£62,000 in the regions, and £56,000 in Scotland) from September 2022, while trainee pay sits at £47,000 (London), £33,000 (Leeds and Manchester) and £29,000 (Scotland) in year one, increasing to £56,000, £36,000 and £33,000, respectively, in year two. If the decent salary isn’t quite enough to tempt you, then consider the perks: they include a gym subsidy, private health and dental care, and regular themed events in the canteens. The “INCREDIBLE” (no emphasis added) subsidised food received particular plaudits, with one trainee confessing, “the main perk for me is the cafe, which does really good food (breakfast and lunch and cakes). As I am in twice a week I always get lunch there. Well worth it. I would choose AG again just for the shawarma”.
Addleshaw lets trainees get stuck in to proper lawyer work rather than boring tasks. “In all of my seats, I have been treated more like an NQ than a trainee and the work I have been given has reflected that. The supervision is always there if you need it, but from an early point you are trusted to work independently, lead matters and build relationships with clients,” reflects one insider. And while the level of work trainees are given “depends entirely on the department,” being “proactive” goes a long way ― “if you show willing you definitely get rewarded with better work”. If anything, some trainees feel they would benefit from doing the less stimulating tasks sometimes ― a complaint we rarely hear! As this rookie explains, “I sometimes think it would be helpful to have the background knowledge that comes with completing these smaller tasks (such as applications to the land registry)”. Overall, however, the trainees are full of praise and a special shout out goes to their “great network of support staff (such as TST) which means you are rarely given ‘menial’ tasks to complete”.
It’s nice to hear such vital parts of a law firm openly praised, and it seems this is part of the wider culture at AG. “Great trainee/junior lawyer environment,” one spy notes, while another elaborates: “All of the trainees within my office are incredibly supportive of each other and there is no feel of competitiveness when it comes to getting NQ jobs. The trainee chat is very active and you know that, no matter how stupid the question, you always have somebody to go to.”
The good vibes continue to partner level: “I have never come across someone who I have thought is not approachable.” The open-plan style of AG’s offices help “produce a friendly atmosphere without a sense of hierarchy”, and while “some supervisors are better at being visible and present in the hybrid environment”, being in the office more has certainly helped in this area and on the whole trainees describe their supervisors as being “incredibly friendly, helpful and sociable”. And you’re not limited to seeking support solely from your designated supervisor ― we’re told there are “a number of different mentor and buddy schemes which is really helpful in accessing other networks and building relationships”.
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. Trainees are certainly “given as much responsibility as you can prove you can handle,” with one trainee revealing 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 discrepancy between the “very impressive” and “modern” English offices and the “lacklustre” Scottish hubs. Insiders even claim that, despite recent refurbishments to the interior, there is a lack of catering facilities but the “beautiful views of Edinburgh Castle” partly make up for it. And with the firm revealing recently that it had doubled turnover in Scotland since its market entry five years ago, the expectation is that office upgrades will be implemented soon. We’re hearing rumours along those lines from rookies, and will keep you posted!
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 £350 towards extra kit for working from home and the IT worked “flawlessly”, respondents report. And this high standard has continued. All new starters are still awarded a “generous” sum of £300-£350 for WFH kit, and the firm’s hybrid working policy means rookies spend a minimum of two days in the office and can decide where to spend the remaining days.
And if you have your sights set on an office further afield, you’re in luck. The firm has three seats each rotation in which trainees can opt to work internationally, with past destinations including Dubai, Qatar and Muscat. Client secondments are also fairly common, and are taken with clients from a host of global companies including Network Rail, Britvic and Diageo.
Generally speaking, the lawyers considered their work-life balance not bad for a commercial firm of Addleshaw Goddard’s stature. While it “depends on the time of year, seat you are in and the work you have on”, rookies report that weekends and holidays are (almost) always respected and partners are appreciative of any late-night finishes. “By comparison with the wider industry, AG is quite good for work/life balance,” one insider reflects. Flexibility is also valued at the firm, with one mole telling Legal Cheek their team is “very flexible when it comes to appointments and are more than happy to let me leave my desk for an hour or so during the day, as long as I’m getting the work done and meeting my targets”.
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. Each office now has ‘environment teams’ who propose and develop initiatives. One junior on the environment committee told us this “isn’t just virtue signalling” and “AG appreciates that it is now an important part of corporate life”. Nevertheless, many agree there is “always room for improvement”, with one person highlighting the litigation teams still print off bundles to be “used once for client meetings”, 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”.