Gateley’s star gets shinier by the day. It became the first UK full-service law firm to list on the stock market in 2015, becoming a legal and professional services group.
Gateley Legal, as its legal services business is known, has shown a hunger for expansion through acquisition as well as recruitment, most recently acquiring outfit Richard Julian in 2023, as well as Adamson Jones and Smithers Purslow in 2022. That’s on top of its acquisition of Tozer Gallagher in 2021 and Belfast media law firm Paul Tweed in 2020. Its finances are stellar, according to its accounts for the year to 30 April 2023, with annual revenue increasing an impressive 18% to £161 million.
The firm has diversified its business by acquiring tax, property and consultancy businesses. So far, however, it’s stuck to the UK apart from one office in Dubai. It opened a Newcastle office in 2021, taking its UK tally to 11. Consequently, there is no option for international secondment. Client secondments are a possibility, however, with one happy footie fan dispatched to Manchester City FC for six months.
Gateley covers a broad range of legal areas, including corporate, commercial, media, sports, disputes and arbitration, property, employment and tax. So, what’s life like as a junior at this ambitious company? And what kind of training can you expect?
“Excellent,” enthuses one rookie. “We get lots of training outside of our ‘strict’ legal work based around developing ourselves as people and young professionals, which I find incredibly useful”. Another junior reports “high levels of responsibility with a strong support system, I had the opportunity to run some of my own files as a trainee which has given me a huge headstart as a NQ.” Training is split into seat specific, firmwide, and general compulsory training, with additional optional training sessions available through the learning and development officers which can help prepare rookies when changing seats.
The work is “interesting and varied. Once you are settled into a team, you are definitely trusted with interesting work — not stuck by the copier!” one rookie explains. Client contact is “fairly common” with notable names such as Fred Perry being on the clientele list for London’s M&A team — which they recently advised on the acquisition of George Cox Footwear. And big deals are also found in the regions, with the Birmingham office recently advising on an investment in fitness giant Gymshark by General Atlantic.
The calibre of work does vary depending on the department and “in contentious seats does depend on where cases have progressed to”, but “the team will go out of their way to try and expose you as to many different types of work as they can to ensure the seat is a well-rounded experience. They want you to enjoy the time with them and get the most out of the seat”, this insider notes.
The company also receives high praise for its supportive peers and approachable superiors — in the 2023-24 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, Gateley employees report “a strong support network of fellow junior lawyers”, while “everyone from the other trainees to the partners will give you the time of day to help you with something if you need it”. There is a “very open culture at Gateley with honest narratives between partners and junior staff”. Superiors are “highly approachable. I am in constant contact with the partner in my team. I feel like I could ask anyone a question and they would be more than happy to help”. The open plan offices encourage easy communication between all levels of seniority and the insider tip is that attending the firm’s many social and charity events help build relationships with some of the higher-ups you have less working contact with.
Another area where Gateley outshines its peers is its work-life balance. Comments include “excellent, perfectly balanced” — not something usually uttered by lawyers. One junior lawyer says, “in a property seat, it is unlikely that you will be working past 6.30pm, however in a corporate seat, expect a few late nights and maybe working a weekend once a month. Very rarely, I log on at a weekend. A work/life balance is encouraged by colleagues.” Newbies also mention that late nights are always a “team effort” meaning that “any longer hours put in don’t dampen things”.
There were one or two gripes among the survey respondents, for example, “most floors do not even have a recycling bin”, while the Manchester office “would benefit from a complete refurbishment”. That said, the Birmingham office recently underwent a revamp and the London office is “very nice”.
The tech is “generally good and there is clearly a move towards updating legacy software”. The company is “starting to adopt more use of AI into our workflow” and the firm’s WFH set-up is said to include all “necessary IT equipment” and a reliable VPN. Not that it makes a huge difference, with trainees being asked to be in the office four days a week.
One of the perks of the job is Gateley’s “sharesave” scheme, available as it’s a PLC. The majority of staff are now thought to have some form of equity stake, providing extra incentive to work hard. Monthly boardroom lunches, medical insurance, subsidised gym memberships and a new hybrid car scheme make-up the rest of the firm’s added benefits.