With a “consistently high standard” of training, “ever evolving” legal tech, “very supportive” peers and “hella chill” supervisors, Addleshaw Goddard seems a happy ship right now, with the firm ranking highly across the board in the 2023-24 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey.
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 also has offices across Asia and the Middle East, and recently expanded into the Saudi capital Riyadh. But there has been some consolidation, with the firm shuttering its Hong Kong office following the expiry of its lease and transitioning 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.
Global expansion has led to some impressive financials, with revenue increasing 18% this year to £443 million. Across the UK offices, revenues increased 14% but the most drastic growth was recorded in the Middle East where offices saw a 43% spike. Profit per equity partner rose 5% to £909,000 — not bad when you consider that many rivals reported a drop this year and partner headcount grew 11%, with 52 new partners joining the firm.
All six of AG’s core sectors contributed to this growth but financial services leads the pack, contributing 30% of the firm’s overall turnover. Elsewhere, a reputed real estate practice, as well as FTSE 100 and other major clients across corporate, litigation and finance and project divisions, form the firm’s major selling points. Addleshaw 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”.
In all of their seats, Addleshaw lets trainees get stuck into 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”.
Another insider explains: “In some departments, trainees are able to get their hands on some really exciting PowerPoint editing. However, in most departments trainees will be given the opportunity to step up, draft legal documents ranging from legal submissions to BTAs, negotiate corporate documents with solicitors on the other side and work directly with client contacts of a range of household names in various industries.” Levels of responsibility can vary, with litigation noted to house a particularly good calibre of work while seats like finance are more administrative in nature.
Regardless of the practice area, trainees can expect to find mega deals at AG, whether that’s in the M&A team, which recently acted on ASDA’s £2.3 billion acquisition of the EG Group’s UK (and ROI) businesses, or in energy & utilities advising Britvic on a renewable energy power purchase agreement (PPA).
Trainee praise for the quality of work at AG is matched only by praise of its wider culture. “I get on with every single trainee in my office and some of them have become my best friends. Everyone is rooting for each other when it comes to seat move or the qualification process and people are genuinely invested in each other’s happiness,” reveals one gleeful insider.
The good vibes continue at 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” — with one spy helpfully noting that they are “regularly down for a dmc” (deep meaningful chat for any non-Love Island fans). 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 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. Whilst trainees in Manchester are “yet to see any visitor not have a ‘wow’ moment upon seeing our view of the Central Library”, insiders in Scotland claim that (despite recent refurbishments to the interior) there is a lack of catering facilities — although the “beautiful views of Edinburgh Castle” partly make up for it. And there are rumours of an upgrade coming soon (we’ll keep you posted!) AG’s London trainees are getting new digs right in the heart of Bank with a move to 41 Lothbury scheduled for 2024. This apparently can’t come soon enough for City rookies, who are excitedly anticipating the two roof terraces, new fitness studio and cycle and shower facilities that the building boasts.
Addleshaw’s legal tech is constantly evolving thanks to their highly-rated Innovation and Legal Technology team, who work in-house developing and integrating tech, both for clients and internally. Beyond being able to do a seat within the ILT team, trainees benefit from the range of tools they roll-out. As one rookie details: “I’ve noticed over the 2 years of my training contract that all legal tech software is becoming more widely used as people begin to accept that this is how we do things now and it’s making working more efficient and quicker.” All new starters are also 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 available, 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”.
Perks at Addleshaw are nothing to write home about, with some trainees feeling the firm could do more in this regard, but there is private health and dental care, a gym subsidy and subsidised food at the canteen. One trainee confessed that “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”.
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”. “A lean mean ESG machine” as one trainee described AG. 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”.