The Legal Cheek View
One of the first big law firms to become an Alternative Business Structure (which allows non-lawyers to be partners), Irwin Mitchell has a reputation for innovation and business-savvy. But over the last few years the national giant – which has 11 offices across the UK – has been concentrating on the rather more traditional pastime of gobbling up smaller firms as it aims for scale. Specifically, Irwin Mitchell has been building up a private client practice (AKA advising very rich people), following the acquisitions of Mayfair’s Berkeley Law and multi-office South East firm Thomas Eggar.
This strategy has seen IM create three key practice areas: corporate, personal injury and private client. Each has a very distinct identity, say insiders, with the feedback from the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey indicating that the trainee experience at the firm can vary widely.
While some profess themselves “pleasantly surprised at the quality of work”, others note significant variability between departments.
IM’s London office in the Holborn/City borders is the scene of most of the corporate action, and is very much what you would expect from a City law firm – minus the international network. Meanwhile, the Sheffield office – which is the firm’s headquarters – is the nerve centre for the wide-ranging personal injury practice that IM is probably best known for. Private client is split across a range of locations in West London and the South.
What unifies this all is a down-to-earth culture that isn’t great for perks but is good on reducing hierarchies. There is a “complete open door policy,” one of the firm’s young lawyers tells us, “as it would have to be, with an open plan office.” And the work-life balance is generally good, with few late nights and most people out of the office by 6:15pm.
Still, a bit more effort from the powers that be on things like coffee (IM’s is apparently terrible) and canteens (not all of the offices have one) would go a long way to boosting morale. Happily there are trainee-organised socials, like Friday drinks at local pubs, that go some way to filling the gap. And perhaps this approach is more IM anyway. As one tipster tells us: “I wouldn't expect my job at a corporate law firm to be the source of a banging night out.”