The Legal Cheek View
Fletchers’ arrival in the list of top 100 UK law firms by revenue is the latest milestone in quite a journey.
Launched in 1987, the firm initially specialised in motorbike accidents, before expanding into other areas of personal injury law. But it remained a relatively small firm until the civil justice reforms began ten years later and, seeing an opportunity as the government enacted changes that favoured larger legal service providers, Fletchers embarked on a strategy to scale up.
Since then Fletchers has marketed itself heavily to expand its reach and embraced technology to boost efficiency. In respect of the former, the firm has enjoyed considerable success through sponsorship of TV show Judge Rinder by its consumer brand, Patient Claim Line, and has developed a very active social media presence. On the tech front, Fletchers has partnered with the University of Liverpool and Innovate UK as part of a landmark project to develop artificial intelligence for the legal sector.
Aside from making the top 100, the other big recent developments for Fletchers is its acquisition by private equity investors in late 2021, and the launch of its Manchester office. Having previously operated out of ever larger premises in Southport, where the firm was founded, the move to open a further base in the North West’s first city was considered a major statement to the market. Fletchers now employs around 500 staff across both the Manchester and Southport offices.
Fletchers takes on up to ten trainees each year, with many of them doing the Legal Practice Course or Solicitors Qualifying Exam part time alongside their training. The firm also takes on a number of solicitor apprentices each year. This programme enables participants to gain hands-on experience in law, whilst completing an undergraduate degree (LLB, Hons), and post-graduate qualifications as well as a period of recognised training. Based in Southport, apprentices work four days per week with one day being dedicated to study. After six years, participants become qualified solicitors. Recruitment is via Fletchers’ annual summer vacation scheme, shorter work experience placements and direct application. Fletchers also recommends applying for junior legal roles to gain work experience and then apply for qualification opportunities internally.
Trainees speak highly of the “variety” and “range of exposure” they receive during their training, alongside the mixture of opportunities “to work on more complex cases” and “to handle my own smaller cases”. One tells us: “The work is interesting and every case is different and therefore you never feel like the work is repetitive”. Another adds that rookies are not given the “busy-work” that you might expect with trainees, but instead enjoy “a full caseload of live cases and the responsibility to do the role of an actual fee earner (with supervision)”.
Cases include everything from multi-million-pound claims across the spectrum of medical negligence to Court of Protection cases and serious injury matters. Fletchers also has its own academy that helps bolster newbies’ knowledge. One rookie told us, “the academy has monthly catch ups with me to check in on how I am doing with my apprenticeship overall which I find really useful”. Cohorts are also said to be a happy place. One notes, “I have a great team who are all knowledgeable, friendly and want me to do well”, whilst another lauds the “great community of trainees”.
Special mention is made of Fletchers’ accommodation of its part-time LPCers: “Balancing working full time, a training contract and the LPC part time is tough. I am provided with great support however”. Another adds: “At the moment I am still studying my LPC and therefore on finishing work I have to go home and do the work for my LPC workshops. I never feel like it is frowned upon if I leave at 5pm and don’t stay behind”.
Supervisors are notably down-to-earth. “I always feel I can approach my supervisors and be honest with them about how I am coping. I don’t feel concerned about going to them when I have issues or queries which is very reassuring when you’re moving around and constantly working for new people,” one Fletchers rookie reports. And there is a nice, “mutually supportive” vibe among trainees and junior lawyers, who enjoy a lively social life. “Always social events going on ran by a very dedicated social team,” explains an insider. These include an annual Chinese, bowling, nights out, family fun day, summer ball and a Christmas party.
When it comes to perks, Fletchers may not seek to compete with the ‘sushi to your desk’ glamour freebies of Magic Circle firms, but it certainly beats them on the hours, with a very respectable average leave the office time of around 5:30pm. One insider also told us that breakfast was bought for lawyers once a month if the firm hit its targets.
Named as one of the London Stock Exchange’s ‘1000 Companies to Inspire Britain’, Fletchers offers an interesting alternative for students who want an alternative to corporate law at a firm that is clearly going places.