Housed in a substantial portion of a Georgian terrace in Mayfair, private client and real estate outfit Forsters feels more like an upmarket boutique hotel than a commercial law firm. A small annual trainee intake of just nine adds to the intimate vibe. “Mayfair is a great place to work, and I always look forward to coming to work in our offices,” one tells us.
Training here means lots of exposure to quality work at an early stage. As one Forsters rookie reports: “The amount of responsibility we are given is incredible – we are able to run our own (albeit small fry) files and given plenty of client contact. Thorough feedback is provided at regular intervals.” Another adds: “I feel I am constantly involved in work outside of my comfort zone, but it is v stimulating as a result.”
Forsters’ lawyers have been busy of late, with a growth in the high net worth individual market seeing six consecutive years of double digit revenue growth following the financial crisis. This year the figure has dipped to an increase of 9%, placing turnover at £50.1 million. Profit per equity partner rose slightly from £527,000 to £532,000.
The firm certainly has come a long way since it was founded in 1998 by ten partners as a breakaway from one of the UK’s oldest law firms, Frere Cholmeley Bischoff, after it opted for a merger with Eversheds. Forsters takes its name from John Forster, one of the founding partners of what was to become Frere Cholmeley Bischoff in 1770.
Alongside private client, the firm is also big in real estate, while it has expanding corporate and banking teams as well. The working culture remains one where reasonable hours are the norm. According to the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18, the average time to arrive in the office is 8:55am and the average time to leave 6:50pm. “I would have given it a 10 out of 10 [for work-life balance] but had to cancel a couple of dinners — in three years, so that’s still a good percentage!” one junior associate tells us.
In return, there are no MoneyLaw salaries, but the £61,000 newly qualified rate works out pretty well on a per hour basis. Nor are there the sort of perks you find in the magic circle. Indeed, Forsters doesn’t even have a firm canteen (although there are some nice eateries around the office). International secondments, meanwhile, are not a thing – having said that, it is relatively common to take trainees on business trips, with several reporting work jaunts to Hong Kong and Kuala Lumpar.
But to some the upsides of ploughing a different furrow across town in West London will no doubt override such considerations.