The Legal Cheek View
It has been quite a year for Fieldfisher, where turnover has rocketed by 34% (to reach £165 million) and profit per equity partner jumped by 16% (to reach £640,000). The growth, in pretty difficult Brexit market conditions, follows a host of mini-mergers. Firms gobbled up by Fieldfisher over the last 12 months include 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. With a 2016 tie-up with Italy’s SASPI also going live, Fieldfisher now has 16 offices – double the number it had a couple of years ago.
The good news for trainees and junior lawyers at the firm is that work/life balance remains some of the best in corporate law. Across the London, Manchester and Birmingham offices rookies work on average less than nine and a half hours a day, starting on average at 9:15am and finishing at 6:36pm. “They do not expect people to work late or weekends and encourage outside interests,” we are told, “however, when busy it is busy”. The form’s core dispute resolution practice area is seen as more conducive to stable hours than its finance group, but it’s a lot a lot more reasonable than at many rivals.
Fieldfisher performs creditably in other aspects of the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18. Training “varies by department but is generally excellent”, while work at times sees trainees “pushed to the limit” of their abilities. The supervision is generally pretty good. A healthy mix of secondments is also appreciated. According to our figures, 35% of Fieldfisher trainees and junior lawyers do an international placement or spend time abroad with the firm, while 28% do a client secondment. Locations for the former include the firm’s Silicon Valley office. The plumb client secondment is apparently the BBC.
Not that trainees are desperate to leave Fieldfisher’s offices, which overall received an A in our survey. 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 morning fitness class held on the 9th floor balcony everyday.
Where Fieldfisher performs less well is on rookie salaries, which may well come under pressure this year amid those impressive wider financial results. £63,000 for a newly qualified solicitor in London is towards the lower end of the market for firms in FF’s class. There are also some grumbles about technology. A new time recording system that is “un-user friendly and appallingly slow” seems to be the main problem, although a new finance system has also been causing problems. However, some new investments in practice management software, such as LexisOne, have won thumbs up.
Rounding off the Fieldfisher experience are some of the best food-based perks that you are likely to encounter. Free brownies, cakes and ice cream are also regularly disseminated around the firm. The coffee, meanwhile, is apparently as good as anything you’d find in the more gentrified parts of Hackney.