Big changes are afoot at Mishcon de Reya with the firm inching ever closer to a headline-grabbing £750 million flotation that would see it become the largest listed law firm in the UK. As part of the initial public offering, the firm says every member of staff, including trainees and junior lawyers, would become a shareholder in the newly listed business.
The shift from private to public follows a fairly steady set of financial results (2019-20), with profit per equity partner (PEP) 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.
And it’s not just the flotation grabbing headlines. The private client-slanted outfit has taken on a range of high-profile cases in recent years, including 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.
And expect more high-profile cases to come Mishcon’s way. The firm recently launched a new £150 million litigation funding arm, ‘MDR Solutions’, through a tie-up with third-party funder Harbour. The move, the firm says, will fund a range of legal matters for its clients, including complex fraud matters, IP disputes and group litigation.
On the lawtech front, investment keeps flowing into boosting Mishcon’s capabilities, including its high-profile start-up incubator — branded ‘MDR LAB’ — where numerous up-and-coming lawtech start-ups are 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. On the topic of billing, Mishcon has also recently introduced an automated time recording system — dubbed ‘Time by Ping’ — which rookies tell us automatically “captures everything we do” and has “completely revolutionised time recording”. The fancy-schmancy stuff aside, there are grumbles over some of the basics, including the “slow document management system” and “outdated” software.
Mishcon’s remote-working support prompts positive responses from insiders, with the firm supplying trainees and juniors with everything they required “to properly and comfortably work from home”. Another reports that, “on the whole, the systems have proved robust to working from home and IT have been able to fix issues quickly”. Several sources did, however, bemoan the apparent delays in getting some much-needed kit.
The firm performs solidly in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2021-22. 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”. Another tells us, like with many firms, the training can vary between departments and who you’re assigned as a supervisor.
The work that Mishcon kids cut their teeth on is generally very good. One trainee describes it like this: “Tasks are varied — some are challenging and push you, and others allow you to master the basics, such as land registry forms and bundles.” Another adds: “You are often leading cases with supervision due to the fact that 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: £75,000. 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”.