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. This year it produced its first financial results with revenue at $905 million (£713 million) and profit per equity partner (PEP) up 5% at £661,000.
Another interesting piece of information is that both legacy outfits were run by women: BLP’s managing partner, Lisa Mayhew, and Bryan Cave’s Washington DC-based chair, Therese Pritchard. BCLP is now co-chaired by both women.
On the ground in London the word is that despite a new shiny nameplate (pictured above), 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: “Quality of training is high with a comprehensive induction programme at the start of every seat and regular department wide training on a range of matters.” Another adds: “Incredibly extensive, continuing throughout the seat — the reason I applied to BCLP!”
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 TC, with just under a quarter 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.
Among the firm’s young, the mood is “not the Hunger Games at all”. One insider tells us that “firm management places great emphasis on team work and this certainly has an impact on the culture among trainees. At work, trainees are expected to help one another when the workload depends. Out of work, just visit our canteen and count the number of trainee tables there!” But beneath the surface other feelings can lurk. One rookie confides: “Most trainees are very supportive of each other, but at the end of the day we are all each other’s competition.”
Still, there’s genuine camaraderie, which often extends to regular department-organised socials, summer and winter trainee parties, socials for those involved in the firm’s sports teams and Friday drinks trolleys. “You’ll often find trainees in the pub on Friday and the firm lays on two parties every seat just for the trainees,” we hear.
For prospective applicants, it’s worth noting that BCLP has established itself as something of a leader in legal market 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. Meanwhile, across the firm various new IT programmes are being trialled to boost efficiency, including “pioneering new software to aid with disclosure in our litigation practice”. There’s also remote access to help lawyers work from home. “The firm is investing in lawtech and automation and is known generally for its innovation,” an impressed trainee reports.
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. 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.”
We can also report further on BCLP’s move to make its iconic 1920s Grade II listed Adelaide House office open plan. Last year views varied widely on this, but two years on it seems that the majority have come around. “The open plan floors are light and there is a good buzz but not too noisy. The closed plan floors are a little dated now,” we are told. What’s more, open plan working seems to have helped the relationship between juniors and partners. It helps, one rookie reports, that “partners don’t usually sit in their own offices [anymore] and instead share a pod with a trainee”. In this enlightened state, most partners “make time to see you and are good at giving you feedback and training” and show themselves to be “generally approachable and nice people!”
Another plus about BCLP’s London gaff is its location on the banks of the Thames across the river from London Bridge Station is pretty good. “View over the River Thames = a glorious delight,” a further trainee comments. One of their glass half empty colleagues has a different take, however: “Building from the outside is very impressive — it goes downhill from there.”
Maybe the firm’s new City of London digs will create some cheer. BCLP is set to move a stone’s throw from Adelaide House to the 125,000 sq. ft Governors House building at 5 Laurence Pountney Hill. “We are moving offices soon which I for one will welcome!” says one delighted trainee. “The architects’ designs look chic and modern,” they add.
For now, a recent canteen refurb has been well-received. It is now “much brighter and airier”, with more food options and regular pop-up events, such as summer barbeques which are “especially good with outdoor seating by the river”. Nevertheless there are some grumbles about “small portions” and “not enough vegan options”.