Osborne Clarke is well on its way from national firm to international player. Last year, it opened an office in Delhi, via Indian relationship firm BTG Legal, and in the past few years it has formed associations with firms in Shanghai and Singapore, added San Francisco to its US practice in addition to New York and Palo Alto, and opened an office in Amsterdam. All in all, the firm boasts more than 900 lawyers and 26 international locations. Back in the UK, the firm is based in London, Bristol and Reading.
Throughout this expansion, however, it has preserved its famously nice culture. “I’ve never met such a lovely group of trainees – everyone has a real team spirit and is happy to lend a hand, even out of hours,” says one respondent to the 2020-21 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Law Survey. Trainees report they have “bonded together well as a peer group” and see each other as “a support network”. Senior colleagues and partners share the team spirit. “Across the board, they have been friendly and approachable,” an insider says. While a colleague explains: “The hierarchy that traditional firms tend to have has definitely been broken down at OC. There’s always going to be the odd one or two scary partners but on the whole the people at OC are very friendly.”
Training is “definitely ‘hands on’ and a case of learning on the job rather than PowerPoint presentations,” says one rookie. This doesn’t mean you’re left to struggle on your own, however – the level of supervision is described as “excellent”, with support and guidance provided where needed. “I’ve had a really well-rounded experience throughout my training contract,” one recently qualified lawyer says. “We are given a lot of responsibility and exposed to clients early on. We are given a variety of tasks to complete, which has tested a range of skills in all key areas of the firm.”
The work is high quality and can be intellectually challenging. Added glitz is provided by the firm’s technology and media practices, which augment the much larger corporate and litigation teams, and represent tech giants, including Facebook and TripAdvisor. OC lawyers advise games and interactive entertainment clients and assist tech start-ups, and the firm was the first in Europe to open an office in Silicon Valley. Trainees can expect to gain experience of client contact. However, be prepared for plenty of standard trainee tasks too, such as amending precedents and document review. As one trainee puts it, “you can go from drafting and completing major documents to re-formatting a PowerPoint in seconds.”
Hours vary between teams. The average 8:55am arrival time and 6:40pm leave time are eminently reasonable for corporate law, although an insider reports “often there have been late nights and there is an expectation to answer emails/calls outside of working hours”. The firm capably handled the switch to working from home during the pandemic, shipping equipment out, including extra screens, where needed so the whole process was “surprisingly trouble free”.
The firm imposed an 11-month 7% pay cut for employees, including trainees, with a £30,000 floor this year to help it mitigate the financial impact of COVID-19. However, it has promised to pay employees back if it meets its financial target for 2020-21. Partners took a 10% pay cut on monthly draws during the same period, although with profits per equity partner of about £700,000 they won’t go too short.
Perks, meanwhile, range from the usual package of subsidised gym membership and private health insurance to a free pass to Bristol zoo. In normal, non-coronavirus times, there are summer and Christmas parties, client events, sporting events and drinks to attend. What you won’t get at OC is an international trainee secondment, nor, at a firm that likes to train its new recruits itself, are client secondments very numerous. Recent secondments include Centrica, Siemens, Deloitte and a fortnight at TripAdvisor.