Formed from the 2014 merger of Charles Russell and Speechly Bircham, Charles Russell Speechlys is now one of the biggest private client firms in Britain, with offices in London, Guildford and Cheltenham. The firm also has a presence in high net worth individual hubs such as Doha, Dubai, Geneva, Luxembourg, Manama, Paris, Zurich and Hong Kong. For law students who fancy a career brushing shoulders with the global elite, this is a good place to start.
Charles Russell Speechlys scores well in the ‘training’ category in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2020–21, with insiders reporting that the grounding they receive is “very thorough and tailored”. Alongside private client work, trainees also often get to sample the firm’s specialisms in media law, technology law and general commercial work. One current trainee tells us that their supervisors were “engaged and willing to spend time on my professional and personal development”, while another says their supervisor simultaneously “plays the role of a mentor, a boss and a teacher really well”. One notes that, while generally of a high standard, training differs by department, explaining: “In some, you’re thrown in and given a lot of client contact and real fee earning work (e.g. construction & engineering, commercial dispute resolution, real estate). In others, it’s six months of bundling, admin and if you’re really lucky you might get to send an email saying ‘please see attached’ (e.g. family, corporate, employment).”
While generally good, the quality of work is also said to “vary greatly from department to department and — most importantly — how nice the fee earners are in each given team”. We’re told that “the quality of supervisor has a big impact on whether you feel like you have been ‘trained’ in a seat or whether you have just been there to churn out work.” Apparently, “some just love to give trainees the tasks they would rather not have to do, such as page-turning large deeds to check there are no hand amendments”. But partners are said to be generally nice, if not super-approachable, and the vibe among the trainees is largely positive and inclusive. “There’s very much a sense of everyone pulling together,” observes one trainee. The firm’s new managing partner, Simon Ridpath, has particularly “taken a hands-on approach” during the pandemic and provides weekly updates, one rookie reports. Pre-lockdown, trainees bonded over departmental drinks events, including the “legendary” ‘Sports Dinner’ and “always really swanky” Christmas parties – the last few of which have been held at The Savoy.
The London-headquartered outfit apparently adjusted to the lockdown “very well indeed”, with remote-workers using video conferencing tech for internal and client meetings; online programmes, such as handy electronic signature tool, ‘DocuSign’; and even an “exclusive in-house developed app” to transition back to the office. That said, one trainee complains that the firm “could have provided us with computer screens rather than expecting us to buy them ourselves when most of us usually work off of two screens”.
The money is pretty good for a private client outfit — especially in view of the decent work/life balance. While we hear that “there are some late nights and it depends on department”, the partners and senior fee earners “want you to have a life and they will make comments if you’re working too late consistently. You do feel they are grateful when you stay late to help out.” Last year, Charles Russell Speechlys confirmed around £163 million in revenue, with profit per equity partner sitting at £426,000 each. The firm has yet to release its latest results.
There is also a decent chance of going on a secondment, with droves of trainees completing client and international secondments. Destinations include ITV, Actis and Charles Russell Speechlys’ Swiss offices.
However, such opportunities aside, the perks aren’t great. The gym subsidy is “rubbish”, apparently. Though “work massages during well-being weeks are a treat”, and the firm’s sponsorship deal with Somerset House in London has yielded some decent benefits. Lawyers also receive a “generous pension” and free private healthcare – but no dental insurance. There are also a few gripes about the London office, which is being refurbished one floor at a time. While the new floors are “amazing”, particularly the “snazzy” ninth floor, some of the older space “is looking very tired”. Fortunately, that will soon change. The firm is coordinating the roll-out of new agile working-promoting laptops with the refit. The litigation team, who are based on the acclaimed ninth floor, already have theirs and others will follow shortly. Meanwhile, a recent refurbishment of the Cheltenham office “has really worked wonders”, says one trainee.
The London office is the only one with its own canteen and serves all food in eco-friendly ‘VegWare’ packaging. ‘Charlies’ is apparently “really underestimated”. One trainee sums it up as such: “[T]here’s so much choice it’s incredible and they really pull out all the stops for various themed events (Chinese New Year/FIFA World Cup etc.) Plus the space is great to use for general catch-ups.” The firm has also moved away from disposable coffee and water cups, instead providing staff with reusable ‘Keep Cups’.