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Currently housed in “a stunning building in the heart of Mayfair with all the top tier local amenities you would expect”, working for the private client and real estate outfit Forsters feels “more like working in a grand palatial country house than an office”. Although “probably the nicest office of any prominent law firm in London”, staff are apparently split up across two buildings which can cause rookies some annoyance. Another gripe is the priciness of the area: “I just wish I didn’t have to pay £6.75 for a pint!”. However, change is imminent as the firm is preparing to move to new headquarters at 22 Baker Street in the heart of Marylebone. “Our new office is being decorated to a high specification and all teams will be back under one roof, at last!” one relieved junior writes.
Forsters partners and trainees all seem pretty close: “as a trainee, I have personally formed close working relationships with lawyers of all ages and positions within the firm”. Trainees really appreciate how partners take the time to provide feedback and to get to know everyone. “Partners are very approachable and will happily take time to answer any questions,” says one insider. A couple of respondents gave a slightly different view on this, with one saying: “Generally the firm is highly approachable and superiors take great interest in trainees, however, due to our four-month seats, it sometimes feels as though superiors are more detached with trainees as they change over regularly.” Another notes the same thing, but says it is “just the very rare few who are slightly distant.”
Trainee ranks are particularly close-knit, according to our spies. “As a trainee cohort, we really have each other’s backs,” one source tells us. While another expands: “We eat lunch together on the terrace every day, as well as socialising on the evenings and weekends. You always have a few trainees who can share their experience of the seat you are going into, providing really helpful tips for success.” In short, Forsters’ culture and community is one of its strongest assets.
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 are 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 very stimulating as a result”. Rookies also get the opportunity to do six, four-month seats, meaning they get to sample a broader range of the firm’s practice areas. Trainees receive formal training sessions with members of the team or knowledge development lawyer specialists as well as more ‘informal’ at desk overviews.
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. In January 2022, Natasha Rees was elected senior partner as one of the firm’s founding partners, Smita Edwards, stepped down from the post after a strong innings.
Edwards has overseen a growth in the high-net worth individual market and solid revenue growth following the financial crisis. In Forsters’ most recently available financial results revenue had grown 3.6% from £58 million to £60.09 million, whilst profit per equity partner (PEP) came in at £547,000. Alongside private clients, the firm is also big in real estate, and has been expanding its corporate and banking teams as well.
The firm’s property litigation team were given a boost recently after a Supreme Court win representing flat owners in Fearn v Tate. Forsters acted for residents of a development on London’s South Bank, who brought a claim under the Human Rights Act 1998 against the Tate Modern in an attempt to protect their right to privacy from the museum’s tenth floor viewing gallery. The ruling is seen as milestone for development as it extends the law of nuisance (undergrad law students take note!) to protect against visual intrusion.
Headline grabbing work aside, the culture remains one where reasonable hours are the norm. With no expectation to hang around in the office, just in case, once you have finished your tasks for the day and partners being “very hot on wellbeing”, work/life balance has exceeded many trainees’ expectations. “I’m not sure I’ve ever worked past 8pm in my nearly two years as a trainee, one spy tells Legal Cheek. ”On a couple of rare occasions I have done a few hours at a weekend – out of my own choice — this led to a concerned, ‘Is everything okay?’ email from my supervisor.”
Another source details: “Holidays, CSR days, external interests and down time are all encouraged. It is clear that many of the lawyers here have come to Forsters looking for excellent work/life balance. Longer days are rare and, in my experience, arise only when a team is working towards a deadline; there is a sense of groups of colleagues putting in the hours together rather than certain unlucky individuals having to stay late”.
There’s not much in the way of gadgets and gizmos to help trainees with their workloads, however, as newbies describe the tech as being “far from innovative”. One insider quips that there is a bright side to this in that the IT training is quite simple! There are high hopes that the new office will come with improved tech and the firm has “recently rolled out new laptops to every employee.”
The perks are nothing to write home about but equally, we heard no real complaints. As well as the usual benefits, sources told us they had decent shared parental leave, the option for a sabbatical every five years, up to two weeks’ qualification leave, and “some sports tickets available to take clients too which is excellent!”
There are no MoneyLaw salaries on offer, but that’s the trade off for reasonable hours. First and second year rates sit at £44,500 and £47,500 respectively, while newly qualified associates earn £80,000 following a 14% pay boost at the start of 2023. International secondments, meanwhile, are not a thing — having said that, it is relatively common to take trainees on business trips. But to some the upsides of ploughing a different furrow across town in the West End will no doubt override such considerations.