Beyond the realms of the magic circle, Norton Rose Fulbright is one of the biggest UK-headquartered law firms in the world, with global revenues sitting at $1.88 billion (£1.37 billion). The sheer scale and internationalism of the operation, with nearly 60 offices across five continents, is a major draw to would-be lawyers; 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 solid training is everything you’d expect from an international mega firm. Current trainees speak highly of the “vast wealth of materials, resources and manpower dedicated to training, in addition to a fantastic culture that is conducive to education”. However, some note that they would like to have more structured training sessions, as opposed to the firm’s more “sink or swim approach”. Another tells us this: “There’s a lot of self-led learning, partners want you to contribute and discuss technical and commercial questions”.
The firm’s response to the pandemic, and subsequent shift to home-working, was well received within rookie ranks. “The technology is excellent and enables us to work from home seamlessly”, one spy reports, while another praises the “regular catch up calls” with supervisors via Zoom. A £260 WFH budget and 24-hour IT support also helped. “NRF provided a generous allowance to purchase any equipment necessary, meaning all co-workers that I know of and myself have excellent work-from-home facilities”, another tells us. Going forward, the firm plans to allow its lawyers, including trainees, to work from home up to 50% of the time.
And the quality of work isn’t half bad either. “It’s top of the market work”, one rookie told Legal Cheek, adding “many of the deals we are involved in are high profile, high value and really interesting subject matter”. However, the work is said to range “from utterly boring to very interesting”. In line with the self-starter approach, the quality of work you undertake “will depend entirely on whether you have proven yourself to the team as someone who is detail driven and capable of exercising sound judgment”. Another notes: “Trainee work can initially be a little dull/administrative, however once trust is earned within a team there is infinite potential to take on more responsibility. There is no work that is deemed beyond a trainee’s scope once they have proved themselves capable”.
NRF offers a veritable smorgasbord of international secondment opportunities, with just over 20% (a figure that without pandemic disruption normally sits at around 50%) reporting spending time overseas with work. Far-flung destinations include *deep breath* Japan, Paris, Australia, Singapore, Milan, Moscow, New York, Dubai and Athens. Meanwhile, nearly a quarter of trainees have done client secondments, spending time at, among other big names, ExxonMobil, BP and Vitality.
The feeling among trainees is excellent, our sources report, with one proclaiming: “NRF’s culture is certainly one of its main selling points, and that is evident from how well team members get along and work together. I have been able to rely on peers and colleagues consistently for advice and assistance, even when working from home”. NRF rookies are said to be “a very nice, friendly bunch and there isn’t this sense of constant competition between each other that you find at other firms”, although like with any firm, there is the occasional “bad egg”. Partners appear to be equally supportive, with one trainee telling us they have “no problem” phoning a superior if they have a “question or concern”.
This junior tells Legal Cheek: “Partners and senior associates alike always appear to be simultaneously very busy and yet available. I have never once felt as though I could not call a partner to discuss any query on a matter, and would expect to talk with the partner on every matter I work on for context/background. There are frequent opportunities to talk with partners about non-work matters as well, and particularly in Covid there is a sense that superiors are keen to ensure everyone is sufficiently supervised and sufficiently content in their work”.
One source also praises the firm’s Europe and Middle East managing partner Peter Scott, appointed in early 2020, “who has made a real effort to engage with all levels of fee earners and non-fee earners to understand the issues important to them”. There has also been a change of personnel further up NRF’s chain of command, with Peter Martyr ending his 18-year stint at the firm’s global helm, one of the longest-serving leadership tenures in BigLaw. Martyr is credited with transforming the firm from a magic circle pretender to becoming a global giant in its own right. The firm is now headed by the Texan-based former head of disputes Gerry Pecht.
Back in the UK, the firm’s London office — sitting prettily on the South Bank of the Thames in all its glass and steel splendour — also gets a major thumbs up. “The office is very glamorous and has amazing views”, particularly from the sprawling rooftop terrace, one insider explains. “The location of the NRF office in the City (overlooking Tower Bridge) is incredible”, another tells us. “Wouldn’t swap it for any others!” Rookies also praise the renovated office floors which boast “very modern” interiors.
Juniors spend a fair chunk of their time at time at 3 More London Riverside, according to our findings. Hours can fluctuate from department to department, with one respondent offering up this personal experience: “The hours can, and are, more often than not, incredibly brutal. You are expected to be available at all hours and indeed have been asked on numerous occasions to work on weekends, overnight (11 pm tasks for next morning 8 am), and on public holidays”.
Others see things more optimistically. “You give up most evenings in the week but overall it can be managed”, notes one. Another commented: “Whilst the role of a junior lawyer isn’t one that pairs up well with a healthy work/life balance, I think that NRF has one of the better balances of the large City law firms”.
Perks include private healthcare, a “reasonably priced” canteen and discounted gym membership, as well as an “in-house music room” where juniors can take music lessons. 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. The firm’s in-house bar, which is open on Thursdays and Fridays, helps in this respect.