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 Geneva, Zurich, Luxembourg, Paris, Doha and Manama. 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 2017-18, with insiders reporting that the grounding they receive is very good. 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”. Another 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 are really lucky you might get to send an email saying ‘please see attached’ (e.g. family, corporate, employment).”
While generally A-grade, the quality of work is said to “vary greatly from department to department and – most importantly – how nice the fee earners are in each given team”. 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. “Lots of firm drinks events throughout the year, including departmental events,” have helped with the bonding. The firm’s social partner, Emma Humphreys, “is really good at organising things”, with the firm’s ‘Sports Dinner’ apparently “legendary” and the Christmas parties – the last two of which have been held at The Savoy – “are always really swanky”. And “there’s even a firm pantomime coming up”.
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.”
There is also a decent chance on going on secondment. According the Legal Cheek survey, 35% of trainees have done a client secondment while 12% have done an international secondment. Destinations include the FA, Harrods and Morgan Stanley, plus the Charles Russell Speechlys Geneva office.
However, such opportunities aside, the perks aren’t great. Trainees complain that the gym subsidy is “rubbish” although there are hopes that the firm’s recent sponsorship deal with Somerset House in London could yield some decent benefits. There are also gripes about the London office, which is in two buildings “and the bridge that was promised between the two is — while still happening — not here yet”. Still, it’s “nice enough and has all the functions needed, with tea points and break out areas”.
Finally, it’s worth noting that Charles Russell Speechlys has been on a decent run financially of late. This year the firm posted an 8% rise in profit per equity partner to £426,000, while its revenue rose 3% to £144 million.