The Legal Cheek View
Fieldfisher keeps getting bigger. In its latest financial results turnover jumped 15% to a record £330 million, marking its ninth year of consecutive growth, while profit per equity (PEP) rocketed 22% to £1.05 million.
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 that their work life balance has been “pretty great so far! Maybe I’ve been quite lucky but I can count on two hands the number of times I have worked later than 9pm in the last 10 months, and on one hand the number of times I’ve had to cancel or be very late to plans because of work”. Another adds: “Only 7 hours/day billable target is very reasonable compared to other firms”.
Busier times do still come occasionally. “Most of the time you can finish at a reasonable time (by 18:00/18:30), however, there are periods where you will be working 12+ hour days. The time you work till also varies massively between the different departments” says one spy. There’s decent flexibility about working from home with most trainees spending about 3 days in the office. NQs can expect to earn £92,000 in London and £60,000 in the regions.
Training can be “a bit hit and miss” but generally includes “exposure to great work and fantastic clients”. You’ll have to be a bit of a go-getter to make the most out your TC though: “It really depends on you getting your head out there, being keen and enthusiastic, trying to get involved in different matters with different people”.
The work is pretty stimulating too. “You get to do some really meaty stuff on big cases — substantive drafting, attending court, being the client’s first port of call, juicy research, etc.” says one enthralled newbie. Though it’s also worth noting that you will sometimes be doing the grunt work as a trainee.
The people at Fieldfisher are “absolutely excellent”, an area where the firm tends to shine. “They really care about you and want you to do well. I’ve been asked many times by various supervisors if there’s anything I want to chat about (whether work or otherwise), how the team can do better to enable me to do well and enjoy my time, and if there was anything in particular I’d like to work on. Fieldfisher is stellar on that point. Many firms claim to be open-door, friendly, etc. but here you really feel it”. Although partners are occasionally too busy to talk to trainees, “there is always someone to go to”.
A healthy mix of secondments is also appreciated. A number of trainee and junior lawyers report doing international placements to far-flung destinations including Silicon Valley, though these were temporarily suspended during the pandemic. In terms of client secondments, destinations include the BBC, media giant Paramount 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 and other social events. “Our 9th floor terrace is to die for — best view in the City and a lovely place to have lunch on a sunny day. We also have our Thirsty Thursday drinks out there, which is a great place to catch up over a few drinks and meet some new colleagues!” shares one insider. The Manchester office isn’t half bad either as Fieldfisher used time over lockdown smartly to renovate its Northern base.
The tech “could be better”, but luckily the “IT team are pretty helpful” and are always on-hand to sort any problems. The firm also has a reputation for providing some of the best food-based perks that you are likely to encounter.
For Fieldfishers lawyers, the week was not a simple Monday to Friday affair but consisted of Muffin Mondays, Fruit Tuesdays, Choc Wednesdays, Thirsty Thursdays, Smoothie Fridays. Apparently, to the disappointment of many, this has been cut back to just Thirsty Thursdays, though trainees do enjoy the free bar on terrace! But without the 9th floor terrace for Thirsty Thursdays, insiders in the regions feel a little hard done by: “The London office seems to get the most perks whilst the regional offices are forgotten about!”. Free drinks aside, there’s also subsidised gym memberships available.