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. Another reckons that working in a listed building with rooms featuring ceiling frescos is delightful, but regrets that the building “has to be kept far too cold”.
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. Financials for 2018 haven’t yet been disclosed, but last year turnover was at £50.1 million and profit per equity partner £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, and 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 2018-19, the average time to arrive in the office is 8:58am and the average time to leave 6:26pm. “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. Another says that they are “actively encouraged to pursue my extra curricular weekday activities”.
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 the kitchen does have a toaster and a microwave, and 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. But to some the upsides of ploughing a different furrow across town in West London will no doubt override such considerations.