Mishcon de Reya has fallen back down to earth over the last couple of years after a very strong run that was never going to last forever. Profit per equity partner (PEP) remained steady in its most recently disclosed financials, rising 5% to teeter just above the £1 million mark. Its revenue grew 6% to £188 million, representing muted growth when compared with previous years.
Meanwhile, headline-grabbing cases keep coming through the private client-slanted firm’s door — with Mishcon representing Gina Miller in summer 2019 in her legal challenge to prevent Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s proroguing of parliament. And in 2020 the firm represented Sainsbury’s in the group action against Visa and Mastercard that ended up in the Supreme Court. The case centred around ‘multilateral interchange fees’ charged by the payment companies and whether they restrict competition, and is considered to be one of the largest cartel damages claims to be heard in English courts.
On the lawtech front, investment keeps flowing into boosting Mishcon’s capabilities, including its high profile start-up incubator — branded ‘MDR LAB’ — where six up-and-coming lawtech start-ups are now housed. The firm is, apparently, “always experimenting with new technology”, and one such initiative sees billable targets for some associates cut by 20% to encourage tech-minded lawyers to spend more time on tech and innovation projects. Mishcon rookies tell us that in the main they “have not yet felt the benefits” of this “fancy jazz” yet, noting that some systems at the firm are “outdated”. This suggests that Mishcon’s tech push is far from complete, with further improvements likely to be on the horizon.
However, when the firm transitioned to remote-working in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it was “pretty smooth” with few hiccups. “We quickly got laptops,” one rookie reports. “On the whole, the systems have proved robust to working from home and IT have been able to fix issues quickly.”
The firm performs solidly in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2020-21. Training is rated highly. It begins with an “excellent” induction followed by “intense training in each department at the start of each seat”. One rookie warns, however, that although “thorough” and “comprehensive”, the training can be quite “front loaded”.
The work that Mishcon kids cut their teeth on is generally very good. One trainee describes it like this: “It is up and down — but I have done everything from reviewing documents (dull) to basically running my own small cases.” Another adds: “You are often leading cases with supervision due to the fact our clients range from big corporates to individuals.”
Peer support and supervision is mixed. There are “probably some of the nicest people in the business” but also “the occasional unapproachable bad egg”. Some of the more senior partners could be more approachable, we are told, with the more junior ones generally better in this respect.
A Mishcon high point is its “swanky” office in Holborn, which is feted as “extremely impressive”. Entry is via a kind of avant garde cocktail bar, where clients can grab themselves sushi and martinis while they wait. Coffee is served, slightly bafflingly, via an iPad. But note that Mishcon’s canteen has had a rocky ride. The centre piece of its fancy office was slapped with a horror show rating from Camden Council in 2018 which found “mouse droppings” and criticised it for the “cleanliness and condition of facilities and building”. It has since got back on track.
Work-wise, Mishcon’s twin strengths are litigation and private client. The firm’s smaller size — it has just two offices, in London and Singapore — gives it a different feel to a megafirm. The downside to the lack of a global footprint is minimal availability of secondments, although there are occasional work trips, and one rookie reports staying overnight in Madrid to meet a client. Client secondments are also not really a thing at Mishcon, which is a source of some regret to current trainees.
Mischon’s newly qualified solicitors earn a reasonable income: £72,000. Plus the perks are pretty good. They include a subsidised bike purchase scheme, a season ticket loan for the Tube, an in-house doctor, free private health care, a decent gym allowance, free yoga classes, “really good summer and Christmas parties” and regular talks from “respected and interesting speakers from inside and outside the law world”.