Fieldfisher keeps getting bigger. In its latest financial results turnover rose 6% to £290 million, marking the eighth consecutive year of growth, while profit per equity (PEP) rocketed 22% to £860,000, after falling to £705,000 in the previous year.
In recent years Fieldfisher has gobbled up other firms including Birmingham’s Hill Hofstetter and Chinese outfit JS Partners, while a five partner hire from a Dutch firm saw the launch of an Amsterdam office. These were followed by a wave of office openings in locations including Barcelona, Bologna, Frankfurt, Guangzhou, Luxembourg, Madrid and Shanghai. In the UK, meanwhile, the firm opened a support centre in Belfast in 2018 and launched in Dublin a year later. Fieldfisher now boasts 25 offices across 11 countries — more than double the number it had a few years ago.
The good news for trainees and junior lawyers is that Fieldfisher remains a pretty balanced place, despite its growing megafirm status. Across the London, Manchester and Birmingham offices rookies work on average less than ten hours a day, with one reporting “I can count the times I had to work after dinner on the fingers of one hand.” Another adds: “Only 7 hours/day billable target is very reasonable compared to other firms.”
Busier times do still come occasionally as we are told, “at some periods, I have had no social life”. However, as one trainee comments: “These periods do not tend to last too long and often mean that you are working on exciting work so I do not mind”.
Training can be “a bit hit and miss” but generally includes “exposure to great work and fantastic clients”. We hear generally positive comments about supervisor approachability, though this can be a challenge during busier times as one rookie reports: “We’ve been so busy that associates/partners have barely had time to talk let alone take me through documents/legal reasoning/commercial discussions.” In terms of peer support, Fieldfisher shines: “The people at my firm are friendly, thoughtful, fun and supportive. A great experience in each and every seat”, an insider tells us.
A healthy mix of secondments is also appreciated. Roughly 14% of Fieldfisher trainees and junior lawyers do an international placement to far-flung destinations including Silicon Valley, though these were temporarily suspended during the pandemic. In terms of client secondments, more than twice as many go on to work for clients such as the BBC, media giant Viacom and global data science company Dunnhumby.
Not that trainees are desperate to leave Fieldfisher’s offices. The jewel in the crown is undoubtedly London, located on the north bank of the Thames beside London Bridge. The terraces running around it have spectacular river views — and unlike at some firms are used regularly thanks to a daily morning fitness class held on the ninth floor balcony. The Manchester office isn’t bad either as Fieldfisher used time over lockdown smartly to renovate its Northern base.
Of course, during lockdown, lawyers steered clear of the office. We are told Fieldfisher has reimbursed home office equipment up to £200, however one disappointed new starter says the kit is “neither the same quantity or quality of the kit in the office”.
Another grumble relates to rookie salaries. £77,000 for a newly qualified solicitor in London is towards the lower end of the market for firms in FF’s class.
However, some complaints about technology have subsided. A time recording system that had been unpopular now reportedly makes life a lot easier, while other investments include practice management software LexisOne. When the firm moved to remote-working in the wake of the pandemic, things “went better than expected”, one insider tells us, however, trainees note that software is still not up to date with reports of Microsoft Teams “coming soon”.
Fieldfisher provides some of the best food-based perks that you are likely to encounter. Free brownies, cakes and ice cream are regularly dished out around the firm. One trainee spoke highly of the “exemplary biscuits”. The coffee, meanwhile, is apparently as good as anything you’d find in the hipster haunts in Hackney.
Culinary delights aside, “the firm has regular socials and opportunities to get together” as well as other perks such as Tastecards and subsidised gym memberships. Of course, perks are another area that has taken a hit during the pandemic with one trainee reporting “limited to standard employee benefits” though continuing “there is a push to offer more day to day perks (whether food or drinks) to encourage staff to come back to the office”.