In spring 2023, Osborne Clarke relocated to a new, flagship, bespoke eco-office in the heart of bustling Bristol. Trumpeted by the firm as one of the “most sustainable offices in the country”, the 74,000 sq ft ‘Halo’ building boasts indoor gardens where people can work away from their desks, a restaurant with private rooftop terrace, flexible meeting spaces and even a yoga and spin studio. We’ve even taken a TikTok tour! And with a new office comes a new leader: OC installed Conrad Davies as its new UK managing partner at the beginning of 2023.
OC’s latest financial results are positive, overall, but fail to match the spectacular growth enjoyed by the firm in 2021-22. UK revenue climbed from £199 million to £217 million, while international income hit €442 million (£380 million) — a 9% rise from €407 million (£350 million). Net profit, meanwhile, dipped slightly from £74.4 million to £77.2 million, and profit per equity partner (PEP) slumped 14% to £687,000, following a 11% jump the previous year.
Financials aside, Osborne Clarke has continued to expand as part of its ambitious transformation from national outfit to true international player. In 2019, 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 Miami and San Francisco to its US practice in addition to New York and Palo Alto, and opened offices in Amsterdam and Poland. All in all, the firm now boasts a headcount of over 2,000 spread across 26 international locations.
Throughout this expansion, however, it has preserved its famously nice culture. “The trainees are some of my best friends,” one happy rookie proclaims, adding: “I can honestly say there is no-one in the cohort who I wouldn’t happily go for a beer with (a luxury you aren’t afforded at all firms). Also, the firm’s high retention rate means that there is no real sense of competition between the trainees, which leads to a very supportive atmosphere.” There is also apparently a “bustling” junior network within the firm, with regular socials and networking opportunities — both in-person and virtually. Everyone is “friendly, approachable and more than happy to give up their time to discuss most things”. Another adds: “They are invested in your development and there are frequent check-ins with trainees at all levels.”
As an example of its team spirit, it gave all its UK employees a 4% profit share based on annual salaries for the third year running. Perks range from the usual package of subsidised gym membership and private health insurance to a free pass to Bristol Zoo. There are also summer and Christmas parties, client events, sporting events and drinks to attend. Other perks include free breakfast, subsidised cake, free Deliveroo and taxis home after 8pm, which sounds like a “small thing but makes you feel valued”, according to one lawyer. For those based in London, OC is also now a “corporate partner” of the Barbican. “This is a really great perk,” one insider explains, as it “gives us access to the members’ lounge, reduced rates in all the bars and restaurants, and free access to the Barbican’s art galleries”.
The firm also receives praise for being highly environmentally conscious, in the 2023-24 Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey, as its new Bristol eco-office exhibits. The firm has also announced a long-term science-based target, to reach net-zero emissions by 2040.
Senior colleagues and partners drive the culture; they are, on the whole, “friendly and approachable”. Another rookie reports, “all senior lawyers are incredibly generous with their time, whether it’s running through feedback on a piece of work, or sitting down for a coffee to discuss areas of the firm you’re interested in.” 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.”
Like at many firms, training is “variable” between seats, with some “more structured” and some “more on the job learning”, according to one rookie. “In some seats, you will have a full week of training before starting work in earnest, while other teams prefer a learn-on-the-job approach,” another explains. “That being said, in all teams, there are regular training sessions and extensive materials on the firm’s intranet, so there never feels like there is a lack of training or support.” Another junior offers this take on the training they’ve received: “I’ve had a really well-rounded experience throughout my training contract. We are given a lot of responsibility and exposure 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 “all very interesting, with various clients that you might recognise, some seats you’ll click with more than others”. 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 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. One trainee provides this insight: “In lots of teams, you are treated more like a junior associate than you are a trainee. While there is the occasional, inevitably dull trainee task, once you have proved yourself in a team, you will be given lots of responsibility on matters and can take on extremely interesting work. More generally, the firm’s client base means that you will usually be doing work for interesting and high-profile businesses, which always makes it more stimulating.”
Somewhat of a rarity at law firms, the work/life balance appears to be pretty good. According to one junior at the firm, it can “vary from team to team” but “having spoken to trainees elsewhere, I know that the Osborne Clarke hours are extremely reasonable compared to the market”. Another source explains that for much of their TC their evenings and weekends were undisturbed. “There are more pressing deadlines from time to time which require you to work later, but we compare very well to trainees at other law firms, particularly in the City,” they tell us.
Salaries sit at £91,500 for NQs in London, while those in Reading and Bristol receive £82,350 and £70,000 respectively. Trainees in London can expect to earn £53,500 and £55,000 in their first and second year respectively, whereas Reading trainees earn £48,150 and £49,500. Bristol trainees earn £47,000 and £48,500.
Secondments — both international and client — don’t appear high on the OC agenda. A small number of rookies are given the opportunity to spend time at other offices, while recent client destinations include Ascential, Hargreaves Lansdown and Vodafone.