For those turned off by the macho talk of 14-hour days sweating over big deals in the City, regional outfits like Royds Withy King have a compelling offer. Essentially, you get to be a lawyer, but have a life as well. This Bath-based outfit smashed the work/life balance category in the Legal Cheek Trainee and Junior Lawyer Survey 2018–19, coming out with an A*. “I rarely work later than 6, and have never been required to come in on a weekend,” one trainee tells us. Interested? We thought you might be.
This is no haven for the lazy, obviously. Royds Withy King is in the UK’s top 100 firms by size, and insiders praise the quality of work. “It’s not the kind of place that will give you photocopying or filing to do,” says one satisfied newbie, “I have run my own files whilst simultaneously having a lot of support”. Another trainee reels off evidence of their importance: “lots of client contact, taking witness statements on own, attending conferences with counsel, attending hearings at the Royal Courts of Justice, drafting range of documents and correspondence to clients”.
The facilities get mixed reviews, which makes sense when there are six different offices across southern England between London and its Bath HQ. “No visible mice” is setting the bar pretty low, and there are a lot of complaints about the air con (admittedly we did run this survey during the Great British Heatwave of 2018). No canteen, either. “It isn’t particularly glamorous” is probably a fair summary — Swindon and Marlborough have their charms, but Canary Wharf this ain’t.
Like other regional outfits, the firm has some niche practice areas that might fit your interests. Get your wellies on for a seat in the agriculture and rural business or horseracing and bloodstock teams. But perhaps “regional” is unfair: the modern firm was created only in 2016 in a merger between Withy King of Bath and Royds in London, and the resulting creation has a pretty broad base of commercial work in addition to private client. Trainees get four seats of six months each to sample different areas.
In those two years you could rack up 24 work socials, if rumours of organised drinks every month are to be believed. The firm scores an A for social life and — on a related note — peer support. Simply put by one insider: “we are fa-mi-ly”. Presumably that’s why being handed £50 on your birthday is one of the perks on offer at Royds Withy King, along with more standard employee goodies like healthcare and discounts. And they’ll draw up your will for free, which the more morbid/sensible young lawyers we spoke to seem to think is a perk to die for. More to the point, perhaps, Royds Withy King is one of only a handful of law firms in the Sunday Times list of best 100 companies to work for.
They aren’t winning any awards for tech necessarily — it’s fine with room for improvement. “I’m still holding out for retinal recognition so I don’t have to worry about where my key fob is”, one trainee says. You joke, but that’s probably six months away at Clifford Chance.
Money-wise, it might be worth setting up a Google alert for financial news about the firm if you’ve got an offer. No profits were divvied up between Royds Withy King partners last year, which some took as a potential warning sign of financial health. The firm itself insists that it’s in an “investment phase” and that 2017–18 would be a “year of consolidation” after the merger that created it. Profit per equity partner was £220,000 in 2016–17, down on the previous year’s £259,000. Down at the bottom end, the 12 trainees taken on every year start on £26,000, rising to £37,000 for newly qualified lawyers — those based in London get more.