Howard Kennedy has gone through some pretty major changes in recent years – and seems to have emerged in good shape, proving the doubters wrong. The product of a 2013 merger between sensible corporate outfit Howard Kennedy and the slightly quirky media law-slanted Finers Stephens Innocent, the combined firm initially seemed an unlikely jumble of practice areas and personalities. But a successful consolidation has seen turnover tick up towards £50 million and profit per equity partner rise by to over half a million pounds.
Howard Kennedy’s financial services and real estate departments have led the growth charge, while the firm’s tech and media work, led by high profile co-founder Mark Stephens, adds glamour to the mix.
A move out of the West End – where both legacy firms had been based – to swanky 1 London Bridge overlooking the Thames and the City is symbolic of the new Howard Kennedy ethos. Trainees praise the “amazing views”. Instructions are increasingly coming in from the banks, companies and start-ups across the river.
What all this means for rookies at the firm right now is a reasonable combination of decent work upon which to cut their teeth and “very decent” work/life balance. The training gets an A in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19, with insiders reporting “regularly being taken to client meetings, mediations and court” and “superiors [who] are very good at making sure that I get out the door at a decent time on a regular basis”. Partners “offer a lot of time for juniors”, while the open plan office “helps foster a genuinely non-hierarchical culture where everyone is very approachable”.
The firm can also be apparently “very social” with lawyers sometimes “all walking out the door together to go to the nearest pub”. This year’s summer party was apparently “fantastic – so well organised and such good fun”.
How long this utopia can endure as Howard Kennedy becomes more ‘City’ in its culture is another matter. Indeed, there are signs that HK’s culture is coming under strain amid reports that its lawyers have their computers blocked if they fail to rack up seven hours of work a day. Still, according to our data the average leave the office time remains a reasonable 7:09pm. “I usually only stay late out of choice, to stay on top of my work but there is rarely an expectation to do so,” a trainee tells us.
What you won’t get here are stellar perks or many secondment opportunities. Having said that, a wellness drive featuring free smoothies and talks about health has been well received. A particular favourite have been the monthly ‘Early Riser’ breakfasts, made in spite of the fact that the office lacks a canteen. What HK HQ does have, though, is a lovely location on The Thames at London Bridge: “Views and location are superb.”
It’s just as well, because international secondments are non-existent (the firm can’t be faulted on this as it only has one office), although trainees do get to go along with their supervisors on the odd business trip – and have travelled to, among other places, the US, Hong Kong and Stockholm. Client secondments, meanwhile, are not offered during the training contract stage.