Osborne Clarke is well on its way from national firm to 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 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 now boasts a headcount of 2,000 spread over 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. Trainees report they have “bonded together well as a peer group” and there is apparently a “bustling” junior network within the firm, with regular socials and networking opportunities – both remote and in-person. Everyone is “friendly, approachable and more than happy to give up their time to discuss most things”.
Senior colleagues and partners drive the culture; they are, on the whole, “down to earth, open and incredibly generous with their time”. 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, “on the whole the work I have been given has been incredibly stimulating. You are of course exposed to some run-of-the-mill trainee tasks, however these are in the minority”.
Hours vary between teams but are pretty decent for a firm of Osborne Clarke’s size. There’s the “occasional late night but on the whole fairly steady hours”, notes one insider, and there is “always someone checking in when you are working late and encouraging us to log off at a sensible time if we have nothing pressing to finish”. Another more pessimistic rookie 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”.
Turning to Osborne Clarke’s financials, the firm has seen a 16% surge in profit equity per partner (PEP), rising to £714,000. International revenue grew 7% to €341 million (£291 million), whilst UK revenues outstripped this pace climbing 8% to £166.4 million. UK trainees and NQs have also recently seen sizeable pay rises. NQs in London will now earn £80,000, a rise of 13% from £71,000, whilst those in Reading and Bristol have been handed a substantial pay rises to £65,500 and £60,000 respectively. Trainees in London and Reading, meanwhile, can now expect to earn £47,500 and £49,500 in their first and second year respectively. Bristol trainees earn £41,500 and £43,000.
On top of the respectable pay rates, perks 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. The OC ‘Bank Holiday’ and bonus this year plus an extra day of holiday next year to say thank you for all the hard work over the past year was also well received.
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. That said, over a quarter of trainees have done a client secondment according to our latest survey results with destinations including Centrica, Siemens, Deloitte and Vodafone.