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. Get in!
This Bath-based outfit has a work/life balance to be admired. “I rarely work later than 6pm, 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, “from day one you will be involved with chargeable client work while 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 a range of documents and correspondence to clients”. Although we are told that the “quality of training varies very widely between departments”. In terms of partner approachability, responses are mixed but we’re told that the “vast majority of the partners are very approachable and down to earth”.
The facilities get mixed reviews, which makes sense when there are six different offices across southern England between London and its Bath HQ. “The days of marketing throwing stupid money at toilet décor seem to have gone”, notes one observant rookie. No canteen, either. Unless, as one trainee puts it, “the Sainsbury’s across the road counts… but breakout area with two microwaves goes a long way towards one”. “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 horse racing 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 pre-pandemic times, over the course of your training contract you could rack up 24 work socials, if rumours of organised drinks every month are to be believed. The firm scored well for social life and — on a related note — peer support. Simply put by one insider: “we are fa-mi-ly”. Presumably that’s why getting your birthday off 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, is the “free Caffé Nero coffee per month which rather speaks for itself.”
They aren’t winning any awards for tech necessarily — it’s fine with room for improvement. “Sadly our tech doesn’t match our firm’s tagline #notaheadofthecurve”, one trainee says, while another quips: “Still playing catch-up post-merger and while they are starting to talk about some innovations it sounds like your dad discovering Twitter!”
Money-wise, the firm’s most recently disclosed financials – released in 2019 – reported strong financials with turnover sitting at just over £38 million and profit per equity partner (PEP) at £220,000. Trainees start on between £26,500 and £32,000, depending on where they are based, with newly qualified solicitors earning between £37,000 and £40,000.
Unfortunately, in response to COVID-19 the firm had to furlough their current cohort of trainees from the end of March until September 2020, in turn extending their training contracts for six months. Those who have continued to work and have made the switch to remote working report that “some teams have struggled with this change a little more than others”. The insider added that “there is a lack of team spirit at present” while one trainee took a more light-hearted approach to the situation, sharing “It’s easy to work from home when you haven’t got any work to do”.