2018 saw Mishcon de Reya fall back down to earth after a very strong run that was never going to last forever. On the financials, profit per equity partner (PEP) dropped, by 9% to £1 million, after years of impressive growth. The figures were unveiled after the firm announced a disappointing 64% trainee retention rate. On the PR side, news of the firm’s work for Leave.EU co-founder Arron Banks drowned out the usual buzz around Mishcon’s regular stream of glamour cases. And to make matters worse, Mishcon’s previously highly regarded canteen – the centre piece of its fancy new Holborn office – was slapped with a horror show rating from Camden Council which found “mouse droppings” and criticised it for “cleanliness and condition of facilities and building”.
These disappointments need to be understood in context. Importantly, Mishcon’s revenue continued to grow, rising another 8% to £161.3 million. That means turnover at the firm has more than doubled since 2012. Investment keeps flowing into boosting Mishcon’s tech capabilities, including its high profile start-up incubator – branded ‘MDR LAB’ – where six up-and-coming lawtech start-ups are now housed. Meanwhile, a new initiative is seeing 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in the main they “have not yet felt the benefits” of this “fancy jazz” yet, noting that some systems at the firm are “outdated”.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.
The firm performs solidly in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018-19. Training is a A-rated. It begins with an “excellent” induction and is followed by “intense training in each department at the start of each seat”. There is “so much exposure to clients”.
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 Holborn, which is feted as “completely incredible”. 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.
Work-wise, Mishcon’s twin strengths are litigation and private client. The firm’s smaller size – it has just two offices, in London and New York – 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. Client secondments are also not really a thing at Mishcon, which is a source of some regret to current trainees.
Expect to work hard. According to this year’s Legal Cheek Survey, Mishcon has an average arrive time of 8:51am and an average leave time of 7:39pm. That leave time has crept half an hour later than last year, meaning that on the basis of our figures Mishcon rookes work longer hours than their peers at Slaughter and May.
Pay, however, is considerably lower, with Mischon’s newly qualified solicitors earning £70,000. Happily, the perks are pretty good. They include a subsidised bike purchase scheme, 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”.