It has been another excellent year for Fieldfisher, where turnover has risen to £242 million, a rise of 17% on the previous year. This is the third year in a row that the firm has been able to achieve double digit growth. PEP has risen 7% to £805,000 and the headcount of fee-earners has also risen by 24%.
In previous years Fieldfisher 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 Bologna, Frankfurt, Luxembourg, Amsterdam, Shanghai and Guangzhou. In the UK, meanwhile, the firm opened a new support centre in Belfast in 2018 and opened up in Dublin earlier this year. Fieldfisher now has 25 offices — 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 since starting their training contract they have “hardly ever left the office after 6.30pm”. Another added that the “work life balance is fantastic”.
“They do not expect people to work late or weekends and encourage outside interests,” we are told, “however, when busy it is busy”. The firm’s core dispute resolution practice area is seen as more conducive to stable hours than its finance group, but it’s a lot more reasonable than at many rivals.
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, with partners who are “not stuffy at all” and fellow trainees are always there to be “a shoulder to cry on”. A healthy mix of secondments is also appreciated.
According to our figures, over 20% of Fieldfisher trainees and junior lawyers do an international placement to plush locations such as Silicon Valley, while 14% go on client secondment.
The standout client secondments are apparently the BBC and Viacom. “I went to Viacom for six months as part of my second seat and worked across the legal departments for MTV, Comedy Central and Nickelodeon,” one trainee reports.
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 9th floor balcony. Rumour has it that the firm is considering leaving its Manchester base — which has no canteen — for new space elsewhere in the city.
Where Fieldfisher performs less well is on rookie salaries, which may well come under further pressure this year amid those impressive wider financial results. £70,000 for a newly qualified solicitor in London represents a £4k rise on last year’s salary but is still towards the lower end of the market for firms in FF’s class.
However, grumbles about technology have subsided. A time recording system that had been unpopular has now been bedded in and teething problems resolved, while investments in practice management software, such as LexisOne, have won thumbs up.
Fieldfisher provides some of the best food-based perks that you are likely to encounter. Free brownies, cakes and ice cream are regularly disseminated 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 more gentrified parts of Hackney.
The perks are “OK” and include a tastecard and subsidised gym membership. The social life is “pretty good” and this is due to the trainees taking “the initiative to socialise rather than…firm or department organised opportunities to socialise”.