With a strong presence in Cambridge and particular expertise in sexy areas like tech and life sciences, Mills & Reeve has a donnish image that attracts students seeking an alternative to global megafirm life.
Trainees are split between the firm’s offices in Birmingham, Manchester, Norwich and the aforementioned Cambridge, but frequently spend time in London and Leeds too. They’re a nice bunch, as are the partners; both groups score an A* for their respective supportiveness and approachability in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2017-18. “A lot of cross department working on transactions” helps, as does the lack of a “sense of hierarchy”. One rookie reports: “As a trainee, you are respected by everyone in the firm — both on a work and personal level.”
That employee-focused ethos feeds into some fantastic work life/balance, with a rather uncorporate law-like average leave the office time of 6:18pm, albeit facilitated by a relatively early average arrival time of 8:40am. “The hours are a dream,” we are told, with “people working hard and staying as long as needed, with no facetime culture.” The work is itself is generally “varied and interesting”, while the training is said to often involve a “good level of responsibility and interesting tasks”.
Plentiful client secondment opportunities are another element of the Mills & Reeve trainee experience that wins praise. Popular destinations include Jaguar Land Rover, AstraZeneca and even, in a throwback to trainees’ LPC days, BPP University.
When a secondment is in London the firm pays accommodation costs, bills and travel. This is to mitigate the fact that pay (see below) is set at regional levels (there are no TC places at the firm’s London office). However, it’s worth noting that Mills & Reeve is bulking up in the capital having recently taken over City real estate, projects and construction law firm Maxwell Winward.
As usual with firms that have several UK offices, there are occasional tensions between the locations. The shinier Cambridge, London and Norwich offices (which feature adjustable desks) are the most coveted. But equal rookie pay across the firm helps minimise any politics and the firm’s least shiny office, in Birmingham, is due to undergo a refurbishment.
While there are no in-house swimming pools or sushi chefs at Mills & Reeve, the perks are good, with sweeteners instead focusing largely around the social side (which has apparently “increased a lot with the expansion of the paralegal support team”). There are also extra holidays that can be bought. What’s more, you can “actually use them – even as a trainee”, reports one insider. But don’t expect much from the coffee, with one rookie claiming that “a tub of Nescafe instant” is all that is on offer at most of the offices, some of which lack canteens (Birmingham, Cambridge and Norwich all have canteens). However, we understand that the ‘proper coffee’ situation is improving and now can be procured more easily.
This year’s financial results show Mills & Reeve to be progressing well, with profit per equity partner up nearly 8% to £403,000 and revenue rising 7% to reach a record turnover of £93.2 million.