Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP) was formed in 2018 from the merger between America’s Bryan Cave and the UK’s Berwin Leighton Paisner (BLP). The former has a strong reputation in the US for M&A, while the latter has long been known for the quality and breadth of its high-end international commercial real estate practice.
The new global player boasts around 1,600 lawyers across over 30 offices in 11 different countries. It is not uncommon for newly-merged firms to suffer some teething pains in their formative years, and financially that has proven the case for BCLP. Revenue over its last financial year was down 2% to $874.1 million (£669 million), while net income and profit per equity partner fell by 4% and 1% respectively.
From the BLP side of the business, the firm is headed by co-chair Lisa Mayhew, who was elected to serve another four years at the helm in the summer of 2019. The firm’s brief spell of being led by two women, however, ended when Therese Pritchard became ineligible to run for another term, and was replaced by St Louis’ transactional partner Steven Baumer.
Despite the subdued financials, BCLP did start 2020 with a splash, recruiting a 21-strong team of lawyers in Paris, with more having joined the new outpost since. The investment has been the largest addition to the firm since its merger went live.
On the ground in London the word is that despite a new shiny nameplate the mood at BCLP is very similar to how it was at BLP — that is, pretty good. Indeed, the firm’s results in this year’s Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey continue to reflect this (see firm scorecard below).
A rookie summarises the training programme like this: “The level of training has been fantastic. We are supervised on each matter we are doing and within each seat there are many bespoke trainee training sessions that we attend. In addition, there are department-wide training sessions which ensure that our training continues post-qualification too.”
The work is mixed, but that’s being a trainee for you. “There have been a few pieces of challenging and fulfilling work, but the trainee workload will always include lots of the mundane and the procedural,” reflects an insider. Note, though, that those who show promise and enthusiasm will increasingly find “really good quality work with a lot of client contact” coming their way.
There’s also a decent chance of getting away during your training contract, with just under 20% of BCLP rookies doing international secondments. The most popular destinations are Singapore, Hong Kong and Abu Dhabi. There are some decent client secondments on offer, too, ranging all the way from six months at Goldman Sachs to a stint at charity Reprieve.
Expect a good level of camaraderie among the intakes too. Another rookie says: “Really good diverse intake with a mix of personalities. A good example is that 8/9 of us went to Belgium for a long weekend together and have had regular catch ups during the lockdown and qualification process.”
As for superiors, most are said to be helpful. “Even the ones I don’t particularly want to work with are approachable,” says one insider pithily.
For prospective applicants, it’s worth noting that BCLP has developed a deserved reputation for innovation. “We are seeing an increasing push to incorporate new technologies (whether internally or externally developed) into our day-to-day workflow,” reveals one rookie. The firm’s Manchester office is another innovation that is paying dividends, and BCLP now offers training contracts in the North West.
The firm’s innovation credentials owe significantly to its part in creating pioneering flexible lawyering outfit Lawyers On Demand (LOD). Former senior partner of BLP, Neville Eisenberg, was one of the major architects of LOD, and now spearheads BCLP Cubed – the firm’s hub for numerous New Law services. Expect BCLP to remain at the forefront of technology and innovation.
Meanwhile, perks include private healthcare and a certain amount of “benefits” to spend each October on things such as Apple products, wine deliveries and the gym. A recent addition is the introduction of an in-house doctor on certain days of the month. Some insiders are disgruntled at the paltry meal budget for late nights in the office, which stands at a meagre £10.
While such freebies are not seen as stellar, they perhaps don’t have to be as they’re not compensating for crazy hours; with the exception of real estate finance and corporate, which have reputations for late nights, the work/life balance is excellent for City law (see the average arrival and leave times below).
As one insider puts it: “For a City law firm the hours are very reasonable. The latest I have stayed is 11pm and I am mostly gone by 8pm with the occasional later finish in a busy period. I generally don’t have any issues making weekday plans and am always out on Friday for a drink with the other trainees.”
The location isn’t bad either: BCLP’s old London gaff was on the banks of the Thames across the river from London Bridge Station, and during lockdown the firm moved a stone’s throw from Adelaide House to the 125,000 sq. ft Governors House building at 5 Laurence Pountney Hill. Trainees who completed this year’s survey had yet to see the new place.
Insiders provide a mixed account of BCLP’s adjustment to greater flexible working, with the firm embracing the principle but finding many of the practicalities – like getting tech hardware to employees – rather difficult initially. Overall, though, the transition has been pretty good, Legal Cheek understands.