Outside of the magic circle, Norton Rose Fulbright is the biggest UK-headquartered law firm in the world, with global revenue at over £1billion mark. The sheer scale and internationalism of the operation, with over 50 offices across five continents, is a major draw to students; as is the quality of the work at a firm that is particularly well thought of for its finance, energy, property, high-end insurance and transport practices.
The training is everything you’d expect from international mega firm. Current trainees report “quality training in a supportive environment” although note that it “varies dependent on department and supervisor”. Another adds further insight: “It must be said that the formal training sessions are on the whole very good. Be aware that if you aren’t sufficiently responsive in the ‘execution of documents’ training session then your whole intake will be made to do the session again at your inconvenience.”
The work is similarly dependant on team and supervisor. While the overriding ethos is “If you want good work and show you can do it well, then you will get it”, there can be can be a lot of administrative tasks, particularly in the disputes teams and banking. However, the firm’s new legal process hub in Newcastle has apparently “meant trainees have been more able to take on work with greater complexity”.
Insiders highlight international and client secondments – which Norton Rose Fulbright offers in some of the most substantial numbers of any firm – as a good opportunity to experience higher levels of responsibility. Nearly 40% of the firm’s rookies have spent time overseas for work, with common secondment destinations including Sydney, Singapore, Tokyo and Paris. One Norton Rose Fulbright trainee reports: “I went to Paris for six months in my second seat to work on our Paris aviation finance team. Absolutely brilliant experience, lots of responsibility and trips to Airbus factories to deliver planes.” Meanwhile, 21% of trainees have done client secondments; spending time at, among other big names, HSBC and BP.
Expectations here are high. So while partners may be “very friendly and chatty people socially” don’t be surprised if some “appear appalled if you don’t know about some obscure part of practice”. Happily, there is a “brilliant collegiate” spirit among trainees. “Great people, all the trainees get on and hang out. Associates in my seat are chatty and engaging,” one Norton Rose Fulbright insider tells us.
Another plus if the firm’s London office, which is among the City’s fanciest – sitting prettily on the South Bank of the Thames in all its glass and steel splendour. The views from the terrace on the ninth floor are spectacular. “Managed to smuggle my significant other up there for the view which was nice,” one cheeky trainee reveals.
But be mindful, wannabe Norton Rose Fulbright lawyers, that if you get in you’ll be spending a fair chunk of time at 3 More London Riverside. While some trainees report “much better [work/life balance] than peers at other firms”, others emphasise just how variable the hours can be. Says one: “As a trainee, you understandably don’t have control of your workload. Some supervisors are great at managing this as far as possible and ensuring you can go on holiday uninterrupted and go to events you have tickets for, others are not so great.” Another adds: “First month of this seat was leaving work by 6:30pm latest, currently haven’t been home before midnight for a month. Vaguely remember what my flat looks like.”
The upside of staying late is that lawyers get a free dinner in the recently renovated canteen (which now features a bar) after 7pm, and a free taxi home after 9 pm. This ethos of looking after those who work hard seems to permeate the culture of the firm, with Norton Rose Fulbright seen as one of the nicer of the very big firms. A decent social scene – led by a “pretty active trainee group and lots of internal groups planning events” – is evidence of a rather more joyful institutional mindset than possessed by some rivals. Meanwhile, a tie-up with the McLaren Honda Formula 1 team (the McLaren Group is a client) apparently yields some impressive freebies.