The Legal Cheek View
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 Tozer Gallagher in 2021 as well as Adamson Jones and Smithers Purslow in 2022. That’s on top of its acquisition of GCL Solicitors in 2018 and Belfast media law firm Paul Tweed in 2020. Its finances are stellar, according to its accounts for the year to 30 April 2022, with annual revenue increasing 13% to £137 million. Profit before tax has risen about 10% to £18 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 offices. Consequently, there is no option for international secondment. Client secondment is a possibility, however, with one happy footie fan recently 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.”
Notwithstanding its rapid rise, the company appears to have stayed true to its friendly Brum roots — Gateley initially launched in Birmingham more than 200 years ago, converting to alternative business structure status in 2013 and floating two years later. A trainee reports: “Lawyers at all levels have gone out of their way to go through their feedback on various pieces of work that I have been given, and ensure that I fully understand that feedback.”
The company also receives high praise for its supportive peers and approachable superiors, in the 2022-23 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”.
Another area where Gateley outshines its peers is its work-life balance. Comments include “excellent, perfectly balanced” ― not something usually uttered by lawyers. A junior lawyer says, “generally across all seats the hours are reasonable. There have been a few 2/3am finishes in corporate where the deal has required it”. The average finish is between 5.45pm and 6.15pm.
The work is “interesting and varied. Once you are settled in to a team, you are definitely trusted with interesting work — not stuck by the copier!” Client contact is “fairly common”.
There were one or two gripes among the survey respondents, for example, “recycling bins only recently being introduced”, while the Manchester office “would benefit from a complete refurbishment”. That said, the Birmingham office “is currently undergoing a complete revamp to be completed by the end of this year and the improvements are very high spec”. 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”.
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.